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, 21 July 2011

"Watering Can" by Caroline Bird (Carcanet, 2009)

I don't remember her like this. Compared to her earlier Looking through Letterboxes these poems often sprawl, with lists replacing narrative, conceptual development and closure.

Here are 5 sample starts

The Doom
I've been breaking clocks in case they use clocks
in their bombs.

I've been carrying a camouflaged tent
and a brightly coloured tent.

I put salt in my coffee to confuse them

Hit'n'miss fragments that mostly miss.

Blame the Poodle
Like the girl who dropped her ice cream
down a volcano and leaped in after it,
too warm for comfort, I realised mid-air

that my changes were gone, the second
I entangled in the lead of a passing poodle

More promising, though the rest of the poem's disappointing.

Short Story
If I was a person, like my granddad, who picked one partner
and boiled them tea for the rest of my days, smiling supportively,
I wouldn't have cheated. At least, I wouldn't have cheated
with such a downright skank.

The first paragraph of a story?

I Married Green-Eyes
I married Green-Eyes early last July.
The neighbours all advised me to go green.
Grass smells sweeter when the gooseberries cry.
The butcher-boy went green when he got clean.

More towards the nonsense or surreal genre. There's end-rhyme, and elsewhere there are variants of villanelles.

Closet Affair
When the shivers of shame have stopped, she said,
I'll just hop on a bus and go back to my husband
but first - this might sound odd - I want to sit
in your airing cupboard for a couple of days

Could be a promising start.

There are 3-line poems and 3-page poems. Several poems take up 2 pages. I'd chop lines and sections from lots of them, but maybe other people will like the parts that I don't. To me they sound like caricature performance pieces, or attempts to be "modern". "Penelope's Chair" is interesting. It has 5 stanzas each with 4 long lines. Each final line contains the word "scruples". Here's stanza 2

I went to the adult bookshop for a book on adulthood
but all they had was Threesome in Reno and Cream-gartered Sue.
What's a novice monogamist to do? My love was at sea.
Scruples splattered the sand like broken shells. My spyglass got bust.

The 1st line isn't funny (is it supposed to be?) and the last line doesn't do much. Here's the final stanza

A decade passed. I turned around. He was living with his mum.
We hunched over a plate of chocolate biscuits, like old junkies.
Our elbows went weak at the knees, a tear curled up in my ear
Partied out, we grow scruples and watercress in the window.

I like line 2 but not "Our elbows ...", and the final line doesn't really cut it.

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