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.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

"Teach Yourself Mapmaking" by Jane Routh (Smith/Doorstep, 2006)

Her line-breaks are about as irrelevant as they can be - she works in paragraphs. Here's the start of "Waiting" - Those of us who like to be on time/ spend a long time waiting for those/ who are not. Those of us who return/ from the mountain by the safe route/ we took out, spend hours watching/ for those on a short cut across the river/ or along the coast. We worry about them:/ have a warm drink ready and dry clothes. To her credit she doesn't over-compensate by using short lines, and the final poem ("The 'Elizabeth Ann'") uses line-feeds without carriage returns, a ploy first used in "Wavelengths"

The man from the radio
                      slips, but I catch him:

"Routines" could have become a sonnet, but that's the closest a piece comes to a standard form. "Short sentences With Electricity" is a sort of abcedarian - 26 sentences where the 1st contains a word beginning with 'A', the 2nd contains a word beginning with 'B', etc. It's not a challenging form (the final section is "Z. One goes gladly to bed.") and some of the images are neat- there's a power cut ("L. A poem's just legible held close to a flame") but there's padding ("G. The stove gobbles logs; we feed it hourly"). Without some narrative to provide momentum the piece falters. "Issue" (which is nearly the next poem) has momentum, but it doesn't depend on language structures for propulsion - a family tree's spread on a table; the persona sees themself labelled as "No issue" and thinks "I'd not thought of myself like this, a dead end on a diagram of false starts". The piece ends when s/he notices a name "followed only by a question mark". It's thoughtful enough albeit predictable, and as a thread in a chapter would work reasonably. There's an attempt to inject some poetry (Smoothing out its folds brushes off my unique and solitary self, leaves me an amalgam of births and marriages) but for me this image fails - it's at best a mixed metaphor. "Made to Measure" is prose.

And yet, there are pieces where glimpsed characters exemplify a landscape or lifestyle - I like "Elsewhere" and "Routines"

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