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, 7 April 2011

"Mr Luczinski Makes a Move" by Peter Daniels (HappenStance, 2011)

A 24-page pamphlet with winning poems from TLS, Ledbury and Ver Poets competitions as well as poems from "The Rialto", "Thumbscrew", etc - another pamphlet whose density and variety of goodies puts some bloated books to shame. "The Pump" is only the second poem but reading it I already felt in safe hands. It begins

After the piped water, the pump becomes redundant,
the handle chained down at the side - at rest, if you like.
The pump turns into 'what we used to have'

The pump may be at rest, but it doesn't die - from being functional, it becomes a back-up, then historical, ornamental, then a garden feature painted green, then white with black text. "Pump"="Art"? At the end though, "the pump can stand for ... the kitchen girl" who cranked until the water appeared

               and at last
she could find time to become somebody's grandmother.
Somebody look at the pump and think of her.

The next 2 poems, "Windfalls" and "At the forest pool" (deep image?!), are in different styles, and similarly successful. This is the kind of non-trivial variety I welcome - short or long sentences; deep image or social observation; traditional or invented symbols. There's always a persona or 2 though (the power of witness), few artifices, and a tendency towards the urban. There's lots of rust, buses and streets, candles, forests, dust and water, wind and thunder, spiders and anger - one can nearly daisy-chain the poems using these symbols as links.

"Policeman, Stoke Newington", "River", "All you need" and "Hat and Pan" are amongst the poems involving 2 personae interacting, sometimes mediated by a third object. "The naked city" and "The retreat" involve a persona trying to engage with a wider context (retreating into the open) but never a life-less one. "Out there" combines these themes - a persona on the retreat meets another (itself?) on the way back. Seems like they both feel they're on the same journey.

There's a "tell it slant" approach to some of the central images, with riddling, "What am I?" titles.

  • "River" begins
    My nerves have decided it was
    your fault. It's dark, and I resent that,
    but I'll be the moon,
    you be the pull of the current.
    With the title in mind, a reader might think that the early "your" refers to the river, or that it's the river that's dark. Soon though "The river looks cold but alive", making "you" into an Other. At the end the persona's on the bank at night - "I'm alone with this mess in the mud ... The water is always moving downwards and now/ I have as long as I want to settle my fear of the river". The river seems to have taken on its traditional time/fate role, the earlier "current" becomes more temporal as does the persona's need to "settle". The "The houses/are darkened for their generous wet dreams" phrase puzzles me though. And why is the "dark" resented? Another symbol of passing time?
  • "The naked city" begins "Open your heart and harden your ego to disillusion". Again, if one pre-emptively tries to decode the title, "your" might refer to the city, but the poem continues "pose in the nude on the height of the doric frontage" - it's "the city of naked souls", an attempt to influence the city/society.
  • "The monkey of forgetting" is about a monkey rummaging though the past. What does the monkey represent? Another person? An aspect of the persona? A mischevious minor god? Or maybe reviewers. The final stanza is
    Hard to tell how much he means to it to hurt.
    Blame it on the monkey's own sense of loss,
    the babyhood of clinging to the hard wire breast
    I presume the allusion's to the behavioural experiments on baby chimps where their mother was replaced by a bottle strapped in a flannel, but what/who is forgetting? Or is all the forgetting in the past?

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