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.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

"Natural History and other poems", Dan Chiasson (Bloodaxe, 2006)

£8.95 for maybe 100 pages of poetry!

Is "Nocturne" Pinskian or Pinskyesque? "Cicada" section III is a novelistic aside about 2 people awake in bed, neither wanting to disturb the other. It wouldn't be out of place in a novel. That doesn't disqualify it from being used in a poem though after a while, one wonders. "Blueprint" section III begins "The Lord so loved the world he sent a steaming pile of lasagna for my ninth birthday. A plate". Decide for yourself where the 5 line-breaks of that passage might be most effectively placed or whether they should be there at all - perhaps they're typos like "dangerouis" in section I. "Visit" is in couplets, but there are 3-line and 4-line stanza'd poems too. There's quite a range of content, especially along the discontinuity/continuity dimension. Here's some flirting with meta-poetry -

Tulip Tree
Out late and the night is a ruin, my voice says
the night is a ruin, my voice doesn't say a thing,
my poem says my voice doesn't say a thing,

your voice says my poem says my voice
doesn't say a thing. Your parents own the tulip tree
we lie under, but they don't own the night.

The next is more prosaic

Mechanic Wall, 1982
In school a wall kept the other half
      of the sixth-grade class mysterious
to us. Miss Rush would make it part
      on holidays, for awful parties where

we weren't allow to flirt. When her echo,
      Miss Costello, shouted Go the wall slowly
withdrew into itself ...

I had a classroom just like that when I was about 8, but what's all that indentation about? Here's a more fractured example - the second section of Self-Storage

America the widow
sorting through his drawer

of fisted socks. The ice shedding
itself inside the water glass.

The diagnosis. The dozen
childlike men begging for medication.

The monkey screaming behind
iron bars. Tender objects:

the dried corsage. America
a certain model

motorcycle, rare Beatles
butchered baby cover

safe, all safe,
all out of sight.

Widow or widower? Anyway, I like this latter style of his the most.

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