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, 30 July 2011

"Changeling" by Clare Pollard (Bloodaxe, 2011)

Poems in many shapes and sizes - some ballads, e.g. "Reynardine" which starts with

A basketful of dappled eggs
     was swaying on my arm,
     the sky had darkened to a bog.
Faint lights picked out our farm.

some prose layouts, a shape poem, and a few sonnets. "First Sunflowers" is a loosely rhymed sonnet beginning

I watch them as they lean against the wall,
like lads behind a bike-shed for a smoke.
They nod, all skinny legs and awkward-tall;
the leaves shrug in the breeze. The faces glow

"Lines Written on the Norfolk Broads" is traditional both in form and content - a kingfisher appears, "Illumination in the margin inked/ with lapis lazuli". Her use of imagery is clearest in "Lovely Trees" - "On one branch, a plastic bag breathed./ On another, pigeons, still trying to nap,/ kept themselves tucked in - plump grey jugs.// And below, of course, roots were gagging the drains,/ graffiti-ing lightning on walls".

I liked "Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe", "The Oil", "Introducing .... the Bearded Lady Miss Lupin" and particularly "Whitby", which begins with a quote from "Dracula", then "Whirlpools of gulls whip over harbour" and "The roses on the fortune teller's/ tatty hut are leeched,/ and I've never bought a reading/ for fear she'd shrug ... Yet something dark veins me, as jet veins these cliffs ... I'm the lighthouse lamp,/ guiding something in -/ the bay's sand fingers strain". Finally the persona says "Feed on me that I can feed,/ for I am sick of being tame. Evil and freedom/ are the same"

In contrast, "The Market", "Adventures in Capitalism" (loosely rhyming couplets) and "The City-dweller Laments" seem tame. In "Empathy" a dog bites a narrator, a young girl. The old owner sobs, tells the girl not to complain because the dogs will be put down. The girl stays silent. Later, reading in the papers about a tot being mauled, the girl wonders her silence was irresponsible or arrogant. Not worth 40 lines.

I think "As a girl, I pored over theories" (p.10) is a typo, but I'm less sure about "melons, mint and leak filled gardens" (p.49).

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