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, 20 July 2010

"Los Alamos Mon Amour" by Simon Barraclough (Salt, 2008)

A scream-line by Clive James, and blurbs by Kennard, Lumsden and Daljit Nagra - can't be bad.

2 line stanzas2
3 line stanzas4
4 line stanzas7
5 line stanzas2
6 line stanzas2
7 line stanzas0
8 line stanzas1
9 line stanzas1
10 line stanzas0
11 line stanzas1
12 line stanzas2
For the most part the poems counted in this table have no form other than their stanzas being all the same shape. 2 poems have rhyming couplets (which in "Abductees" are arranged in quatrains). 2 poems have stanzas where each line of a stanza is more indented than the previous one. In one poem there are some line-feeds without carriage returns. I don't know what to make of such versatility other than to ignore it. No prose-format poems! Beyond the cry-wolf line- and stanza- breaks there's a generous portion of loose formalism. "The Hands" and "Corrie Sonnet" are amongst the sonnets.

While nearly all the poems have something of merit (which is impressive), few entirely convince me. "The Hands" is neat in a closed sonnet way, and parts of the longer poems impress. "The Open Road" (for example) is more of a challenge for me. The title's an allusion to a film, I think. The poem comprises 5 stanzas with an abba rhyme scheme. The first line is "What if colour film came first" - a promising premise that the poem develops by offering descriptions of some scenes in black and white - too many scenes for my liking. Iambs come and go. The penultimate stanza's in strict iambics (e.g. "and fix the world in greens and reds") though the line-lengths are erratic. These iambics continue into the succeeding stanza (e.g. "between the separating reds and greens") but crash in the poem's final line - "on our memory's monitor or silver screen". Red and green were used in early 3D films, where accuracy of colour was sacrificed for stereo effect, but if that's relevant I'd like more support. I can see the ingredients of a poem here, but I'd change its proportions, reconsider the title, wonder how the rhythm and breaks contribute to the effect, and compress the concluding stanzas.

Lesser poems come in blocks: from "For Sale" to "Abductees"; from "Bath Time" to "My Best Friend". I like "Giallo" more (it's Italian for "Whodunit"), the movement from unexplained grief (through cocktails, fancying barmaids, a father's death, wondering whether his father would fancy the barmaid) to showing how his father's memory haunts him. So he drinks more cocktails to rid himself of his tormentor.

In the longer poems there are similarities with Paterson. At times he reminds me of Paul Farley but I think I prefer Barraclough - his variety's more radical. The more I read him, the more I like his work. See also these reviews

  • the echo from the canyon ("shockingly good writing ... a sparkling debut ... remarkable, multifaceted work")
  • Culture Wars ("His poetry serves as an uncomfortable reminder of the relative failure of contemporary poetry")

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