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.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

"Planet-struck" by Julian Turner (Anvil, 2011)

The first poem "At the Pagan Sites" (published in Stand) begins

My father showed me how to haunt such sites;
he disappeared as I walked after him,
returned to me as one small speck within

the larger field, wearing the clothes of sky,
his wet shirt flapping scarecrow-like, a kind
of corposant appearing to illume

The unpressurised style, sporadic unusual word, and the format typify this collection. I think the only poem that's not a sequence of same-sized boxes is "Pastoral" , which ends in a rhymed couplet. Several of the poems rhyme, though the number of half-rhymes makes the pattern hard to detect sometimes, and in poems like "Les Hirondelles" some lines don't try to follow the rules.

"At the Pagan Sites" ends with a return "to the thoughtless world of ordinary things" and the persona saying that s/he tries to "get away as much as possible". In subsequent poems there are ghosts, henges, Easter Island, the dead, and cargo cults, and a hint that once violated, the security of home/family/self is hard to recover.

In the final poem "In the Attic at Work" (published in Poetry London) the persona, switching off the lights at work to go home, senses "the revenants from the day's work" and feels that his/her duty is "putting to bed/ these echoes, letting them exhale". For me, these mysteries are too easily plucked from thin air. Ending the poem and the book there's

As I patrol the corridors
a meteor's descending flight
across a screensaver mirrors
the Leonids through an angled skylight

a correspondence of the mundane and heavenly that doesn't give me a sense of satisfying closure.

The poems contain some conventional imagery - "trees hiss together", "the auburn candle flames glow mutedly/ like love-shot eyes" - and descriptions that might transport you - "Everywhere the water's height/ surprises, a great smooth swelling/ over weirs, a sheer glass welling/ above the banks as skeins of light/ wind around themselves in mauves". Once in a while, society's ills are portrayed - e.g. child prostitution

Under the sodium in negligées
the children stand by cars, their mouths blasé
like pomegranates from the work of Poe,
and close them on the fountains of decay.

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