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, 29 January 2011

"Wheelbarrow Farm" by Hilary Menos (Templar, 2010)

This is a pamphlet about farm life, especially animal life - see also Clare Best's Treasure Ground. I liked "Burgoo", didn't like "Five a Day", then reached 2 poems whose relaxed forms distracted me

  • "Badger Season" has 12 quadrains and a couplet. There's some inter-stanza end-rhyme, though it may be accidental. I think the rhyme scheme is xxaa, xaxa, axax, axxa, abba, xxaa, xxxx, axax, xxaa, xxxx, xxxx, xaxa, xx, with between 2 and 6 stresses per line
  • "Stock Take" (whose plot I like) has 9 rhyming couplets (ten/in, maths/maths, lambs/them, Diptford/quid, fees/says, etc). The lines are between 4 and 16 syllables long.

Because of the irregular line-lengths the end-rhymes are noticed as such only on the page, but in any case, what's the rhyming for? Come to that, what are the line/stanza breaks for? Following those are 2 14-liners

  • "Colin" is blank verse with some lines regular ("The quad bike's got no brakes. The lad's off sick") and other lines rather less so.
  • "Grunt's Bane" is abab cdcd efef xx - more rhyme than "Colin" but less regularity of rhythm and line-length.

The pamphlet's rule seems to be that poems should be somehow regular, but not overly so - the more they rhyme, the less the line-lengths match. The language is lively without straying far from prose - e.g. "First, catch your calf. This is easier said then [sic] done/ and is generally only achieved using some kind of carrot/ in conjunction with some kind of stick" (p.14) or "The Massey steams out of the shed like a red dragon,/ the Bamford baler behind it a triumph of '70s calibration,/ part Wallace and Grommit, part Heath Robinson" (p.18)

"The Blue Hour" works pretty well, with broken fences and wethers squaring up (a footnote tells us that wethers are "castrated male sheep" (my emphasis))

Grunt's the star - in the title poem he "goes off to do what he does best:/ apply excess force in a tractor". I think he'd be as successful in a chain of prose anecdotes, but the poet's been much published so I presume she knows what she's doing.

Other Reviews

  • Sphinx (Matthew Stewart, Niall Campbell and Matt Merritt)

1 comment:

  1. Sounds interesting, I will look out for it.

    BTw I seem to have taken the same background as you - I'd better choose another one!