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, 15 June 2010

"Sunday at the Skin Launderette" by Kathryn Simmonds (Seren, 2008)

Poets need to show that they've looked at the world but aren't enslaved by it. Starting a poem with some acute observation that leads the reader to a surreal punchline fits the bill. Poets benefit from showing their awareness that words have properties their worldly equivalents lack - some rhyming or tidy layout's enough. The first poem "The World won't miss you for a while" fulfills these objectives admirably.

The book is what I think a first collection should be - a generous word-count, and the poet's already won prizes and has appeared in many worthwhile magazines. Her favourite structuring device is the list. Poems like "Reasons to be Cheerful", "The Men I Wish I'd Kissed" and "Five Solutions" announce themselves as such, but several other poems (e.g. "The Woman who Worries Herself to Death") have that shape too. Even the narrative pieces have a linear feel. There are several imperative poems ("The World won't miss you for a while", "What Not to Do with Your Day", etc), and lots of angels and sandals.

Unobtrusively effective imagery and observation abound - taxi drivers with "right arm browner than the left"; "the graveyard's mustard sky"; "a baking sheet of sky" - but I suspect most noticeable are the poems that grow from a single image/idea - the title poem for example. I think some of these ("Rodin's Lovers Interrupt their Kiss", "Going to the Dogs with Mickey Rooney") are missed opportunities - I'm surprised that "My Darling, My cliché" won a prize. That said, hardly anything's boring, and there are signs ("Suburban Love Song", for example, and some of the later, prosier pieces) of other styles of poetry bubbling up.

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