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.

Friday, 5 November 2010

"Particles of Life" by Jan Fortune-Wood (bluechrome, 2006)

120 pages of poetry, about a third of them already published. There are at least 2 villanelles and some other rhyming poetry. I found some typos straightaway ("Pims" in "Cambridge", "it's crumbling walls" in "Shepherd's Bothy" and "the overflow damn" in "August - so simple"). Several pieces look like line-broken anecdotes or dutifully recorded events, but with a book this long these can be viewed as adding to the variety rather than displacing other work. The changes in format don't keep up with the changes of content and style.

I sometimes wonder if "first impressions" are considered important when organising a collection. The first poem here, "Motherly Love", would deter me from buying the book. The sentiments are worthy enough - the rarity of displays of love - but I find the line-breaks intrusive.

The text is not always poetic when it's heightened - too many poems like Refuge. This is the end of Retreat

The open sewerage of her reeking past,
admitted to no future, only rage
flowed, choking up the present with the stench,
left her alone, embittered with old age.

The next extract is from Irresistable

That beyond the darkness,
beyond the probing dawn,
our yearning secrets,
palpable with hope,
will yet forget
even this matchless love

The following is from Holiday Packing - There and Back which again uses routine not-quite-dead metaphors

Sun cream jostles with optimistic shades;
two fat novels that cry for indolent days;
travel pills and a rough guide to France
beside the camera's speculative lens,
preying, mantis-like, for reminiscences.

These lines end the first half of the poem, which is a line-based palindrome.

There's a villanelle called "Penelope's Threads" (good match of form to content). The title has a footnote - "After the Trojan war, Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, waited on Ithaca for his return, but as the years went by her suitors became more pressing, claiming she should give Odysseus up for lost and choose a new husband. Penelope agreed that if Odysseus was not home by the time she had finished a large tapestry she would re-marry, but each night Penelope unpicked the day's work on the tapestry, buying more time for Odysseus's return" - surely too much information.

"Installation" is small and tidy. I like "Before We Make Love"

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