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.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

"The Opposite of Cabbage" by Rob A. MacKenzie (Salt, 2009)

The final 13 pages are blank. Before then are 54 pages of poetry from Magma, The National Poetry competition, etc.

I liked "Nuclear Submarines" - they're like "autistic sharks" but then one surfaces - "The second it drops, I no longer exist ... and I am as blue is to the fish". I wasn't keen on most of the poems in the middle of the book. "My Dentist, Aniela" is accessible. "Slimming " is a sonnet. "The Preachers Ear" rhymes, and there's a sestina. "Holiday at New Butlins" has bingo calls amongst observation

anachronistic Yorkshire camouflaged
as family entertainment, your place or mine, sixty nine,
lager flattening in my glass

I don't think his mind and mine move in quite the same way. I often found myself unable to follow where he was going or reconstruct the route retrospectively. "Sky Blue" begins thus

In a polo shirt and sky blue boots I walk
in the wake of self-aware travel diarists
and potential blindness. The sun is so bright
it's impossible to miss anything, and so
the roadside Oracle of Invisible Being
gets my full attention. I have a sky blue heart,
it tells me, and also that from today Paris
is the capital of Poland.

Apart from puzzling the reader by the ineffectiveness of their line-breaks, what do the early lines achieve? What kind of "wake" is meant? In what way can one walk in the wake of potential blindless? The Oracle's inanimate? A machine? And what happened to the travel diarists? Is the persona becoming more like them? At the end, poppy stems tilt, and

I am equally puzzling to myself, equally
apparent in my sky blue boots, tilting now to
this flower, now this one, this one, that one.

Does this mean that the persona knows that s/he's puzzling to the reader? My niece has purple boots, polished enough for her to see herself reflected in them. Is this what "equally apparent in my sky blue boots" means - that the persona is reflected equally in the 2 boots? Are the reflections tilting, or the boots? And what's the significance of the "this ... this ... this .. that" sequence? Or do the poppies and blue hearts signify a drug theme?

"patenting The" and "A Creative Writing Tutor" are jokes/ideas that didn't work for me. "Spliced and Fading Out" has its moments though

          I determined
to ignore the shine of the times, the slobbery

slope to the waif look and Gigapet, and held out
for whatever was due beyond Windows 95 -
a rash of holidays in separate cathedral cities

Though I don't understand the stanza-break (or come to that the line-breaks) I like the speed and variety of delivery here. The shine/slobbery wordplay sounds more like inebriation than density to me though.

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