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, 26 October 2010

"Rays" by Richard Price (Carcanet, 2009)

133 pages of poetry! But on closer investigation that's not quite the bargain it might appear. "little but often" has sections (one per page) named after letters of the alphabet, averaging 4 lines but sometimes shorter (section t is "temptiness", section l is "lavish love", section h is "hesitations//share a life-/halve it?"). A skim through suggests that we're farming on marginal land here, labouring to extract poetry from unpromising raw material. Here and there something blossoms.

The first 2 poems give an indication of the breadth of styles in the book. The collection begins with "Freehold" that starts

A summer's day? - you're
lovelier... You're ... more gentle.

and ends with "William Shakespeare (trans.)". The next poem ("The thought keeps counting") has

With primary insomnia the data suggests
there's decreased regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF)
to the fronta lmedial, occipital and parietal cortices,
and to the basal ganglia. I'll explain these things later.

Some pieces I don't get at all. "Melancholy plumber" spends 1.5 pages repeating a Blues verse and chorus, changing the underlining and line-breaking minimally between versions. For me it's a joke which drags on far too long. But then one comes across "Shells"

Shells mock the ear.
Shallows? The swell?

New / Just healed. Howls
mock the air. Howls
mock the scar.

He uses end-rhyme quite often, especially in refrains. Here's the start of "Trackside", a verse repeated twice (but with the final "and" replaced by a comma) later in the piece

Trackside fires when we met,
foxes confused.
Dust and drought, reservoir regret,
underloved and overused.

There's so much that you can afford to pick out the bits you like and leave the rest. To end, here are more quotes to give an idea of the variety

You took drugs in the Listening Olympics

(from "Last train, full of couples")

We were wise to wash advice
right down, with a drink to ideas.
I don't offer youth or years for denial.
We'd almost be lovers, near sisters, near brothers,
if your conscience hadn't launched its show retrial.

(from "Rhyme nor Reason")

have passed by who
by discontinue
and area obviously

we but
not comment
had off support

(from "Informer(1)")

In wardrobes, ties hang like curing fish, patterns like smoke. (in restaurants, avoid kippers and sauce.) 'She said she wasn't ready to be tied down. I was gutted.'

(from "Ties")

A person reading -
truth and tree share the same root.

A woman reading -
singing - it's you, singing
(under your breath).

                Golden key, golden key.
                Let yourself in,
                let yourself in,
                you can
                let yourself in
                with this golden key

(from "Golden Key")

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