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.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

"The Brief History of a Disreputable Woman" by Jane Holland (Bloodaxe, 1997)

Saffron Walden's Oxfam bookshop often has a few surprises - this lively book is signed. I like the title poem - it helps to know about snooker (and I do). "take a cue from the rack ... This cloth is a lawn/ to lay my head on, listening // to the beat of earth ... body moves to wrist,/ wrist falls to hand". "Canzoni" (which I like much of) is 10 pages of loosely related poems, with imagery such as "Coal dust is like pollen -/I carried it around in my lungs// summer after summer,/ a black hive". Throughout the book there are pieces that I like between those I don't understand or like so much. I guess "Spin-Cycle" hints at menstrual cycles and the cycle of generations. I didn't get "Hangover" (the tree hangs over?), and "Misreading the Classics" goes over my head. "Green Waters" has alternate lines indented and lines split in two by spaces. The 2 parts sometimes have 2 beats, sometimes 3.

2 line stanzas7
3 line stanzas14
4 line stanzas4
5 line stanzas5
6 line stanzas2
7 line stanzas2
8 line stanzas1
Misc stanzas8
The percentage of poems with regular 2 or 3 lined stanzas is high. Some of these comprise punchy, staccato phrases - rarely aphoristic though sometimes declarative. Other poems have much enjambment and I don't know how the layout helps the reader. For regularity, "Brighton Pilgrimage" takes the prize - 18 7-lined stanzas where the longest line is about 1cm longer than the shortest.

Worms figure frequently, as do silence and echoes, not always in a strikingly original way

  • "I build the perfect silence with my hands:/ a pyramid or sorts, an arch, the gaping/ mouth of Agamemnon's beehive tomb// ... You'll know the perfect silence when it comes./ It has the outward look of architecture/ (structured stress), the inward hum of bees// ... a leap of faith, inevitable to those/ who welcome it into their silence band" (from "Wavelength")
  • "I step back,/ listening to where the ripples/ found me,// the still drop of a stone/ into dark water,/ the endless concentric circles.// After the stone's entry, the waters heal themselves/ like lips closing on silence" (from "Canzoni")

The pieces I like span the range from direct (campaigning?) poems to glancing blows.

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