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, 28 August 2010

"Found Wanting" by Hugh Underhill (Smokestack, 2008)

If you want things louder, more loudspeakers aren't enough - you can fill a field with iPod headphones and still hear nothing above the bees. It's the same with imagery. These poems have a steady buzz. Perhaps he doesn't want to be stridently poetical. The content's thoughtful enough, and the way he's sorted his concepts into the poems (which are typically a page long) is reasonable. The punchlines aren't satisfying enough for me though. I can't tell whether it's the persona or the poet who's puffing up the language but I think the poet can be blamed for the over-easy juxtaposings. I didn't care for the more overt philosophy pieces - "Self-and-Other", "She Tells Me What Counts", etc - and the ventriloquising (putting the philosophy into characters' mouths) doesn't help much. Here are some extracts illustrating the affected language and endings that I wasn't keen on.

    Not really goin' back over, are yuse? I've been,
    coupla years I was over there. No, stay here.
    Europe's screwed up, en'it.

    The end of "Township Historian" - we see the local historian's other side all too clearly.

    and the wind keens
    in beached dinghies' shrouds

    The end of "A Lake's Progress" - over-larded imagery

  • May leafage as I cross from the Serpentine, and restored glintings of the Albert Memorial - kitsch space-rocket primed for blast-off (some of us wish it would)

    The start of "Art Found wanting" - I can't identify whose is the tone, nor do I understand the line-breaks.

  • As I revive in fact and in mind the affective mood and the pretty-near hubristic avidity with which I once plunged into and sought to engross the amassed registration of civilized time at the for me, up from slumbrous Sussex, breath- taking British Museum

    From "Tricks of Time" - I don't get the diction. Is it the poet's or the persona's?

  • I ease from the bed, defrock a window, and sky widens above the frost, crossed by an arrow of unquiet geese which forsake the river's leaden ice

    The end of "How" - poetical to no purpose.

  • His watch wants him back at the office

    From "Life Slips By" - poetical. Odd line-break.

In the blurb Tony Grist writes "Don't think it comes easy, this throwaway ease of poetic manner. It takes more work, more honesty, more confidence than the aureate boom-booming that is more readily recognisable as poetry". But I rather like a confident boom, or at least an echo of one. And I think this book's poetry is too often gratuitously mannered.

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