Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Monday, 22 March 2010

"Beneath the Apple Bough" by Isabella Strachan (Poetry Monthly Press, 2010)

In her foreword Strachan says that she's been in magazines for 30 years and won the Wells competition. At the end in a note entitled "The Poetry Scene Today" she mentions the difficulty she'd have being accepted by Shoestring or Tall Lighthouse and says that "After 15 years of intensive writing" she has "decided to bow out of the poetry world". The book has poems from Envoi, The Interpreter's House, Pennine Ink, South, etc, so she knows what she's talking about. There are several similarities with my situation, but not so much with my poems.

Charles Bernstein wrote "in prose you start with the world/ and find the words to match; in poetry you start/ with the words and find the world in them". This book's full of informative poems - fact-ridden rather than closely observed - with little gift for punchlines. At the end of "Historic House" Strachan writes that "The National Trust says it now intends to move away from the 'frozen moment in time' approach". I'm not so sure that Strachan has moved away yet, but the poems probably aren't representative - as she says, the book's "designed specifically to be bought as a gift". The are few surprising images - "turquoise dimmed to an old coin's blue" is the best I could find.

Though my poems aren't often mimetic/descriptive, they tend to include facts (of the "interesting but true" variety), and tend to have punch-lines. I too might have missed the boat.

I read Khalvati's "The Meanest Flower" at the same time. Khalvati's first starts with "April opens the year with the first vowel", ending with "None is open" - a trajectory opposite to Strachan's, whose poems leave the objective world (if at all) with a final gesture towards distant horizons or things beyond our understanding.

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