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.

Friday, 8 July 2011

"What to do" by Kirsten Irving (Happenstance, 2011)

Many structural devices are used, though few are received forms.

  • p.10 - xxaxa
  • p.14 - end-rhyme
  • p.15 - all end-words contain an "l"
  • p.20 - terza rima
  • p.21 - 3 8-lined stanzas. All stanza 1 lines end with "dreams". Stanza 2 and 3 lines end with "body" and "nothing" respectively
  • p.22 - end-rhyme
  • p.32 - rhyme and assonance

First the difficulties. I had trouble with some of the titles - "Ittan-Momen" (web-searches only partly help, but the pamphlet has Notes), "Nancy Archer steps out" (Character from "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" - see Notes), "Pathogenesis" (The development of a disease) and "The orniphobe" (Ornithophobia is fear of birds). I had to look up some other words too: "shuriken" (p.12) is a traditional Japanese concealed weapon that was generally used for throwing, and "tengu" (p.20) are a class of supernatural creatures found in Japanese folklore.

I didn't really get "Honey badger" (according to Wikipedia it's an animal with "few natural predators due to its thick skin and ferocious defensive abilities"). The poem begins "To forget me, you square up to a leopard/ He a flecked bullet, you a cluster of iron filings". "flecked bullet" because he's as fast as a bullet and spotted? So? Honey's popular - it appears on pages 9, 14, and 20.

I didn't get the end of "Explaining it". In "Ants" there's a line or 2 I don't get - e.g. "aiming that barrel at the barrel", like shooting fish in a barrel? It's about a social situation where peer pressure or a challenge raises the stakes. The "Restorative justice" poem sets a similar problem in a different context.

Now the main course. I liked "No matter". It begins

There's Cat singing, Here she comes now,
flanking you like Benvolio
and there's an elbow in your side.
You want a banner three feet wide
saying THE END and WOE.

The syllable pattern's 88886; the rhyme scheme's aabba (the 2nd stanza has a gap where a significant 4th line would be). "Cat" is presumably Cat Stevens, singing "Here Comes My Baby ... with another guy". Benvolio is Romeo's cousin and friend. The poem moves fast without leaving the reader behind, ending with

         I should hide
from her wrists and her street-thief stride
but I stand like a corpse for a crow

It's a poem where I'm unsure how peripheral the mysteries are. Once the surface turbulence is negotiated, there's a rather simple poem underneath. I prefer things the other way around, and there are poems like that too. I liked "Full-length mirror" (perhaps my favourite), and "Comparative tranquillity". "Three betrayed lieutenants" is growing on me. "Nancy Archer steps out" makes good sense when you understand the title. In any case, the ending works

The moon's a thumbnail. Guess
I'll sit on the bar stool of the cooling tower
until I work out
what to do with myself

Other reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment