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.

Monday, 28 November 2011

"Profit and Loss" by Leontia Flynn (Cape, 2011)

A busy, fidgety poet. Motherhood and aged parents feature in several pieces - nothing original (it's hard to think how a poem about an antenatal ultrasound scan could be original) but at least there aren't many of them.

Part I is about rooms and houses. Most stanza have 5 lines, most poems have 3 stanzas. They have flat sections - e.g. in "The Dream House" "The watermarks and coffee-rings on worktops;/ the wine spilled by the sofa; the low beam/ where someone thought to fix a rope once; notches/ on bedposts then on doorposts; errant Post-its/ under old doormats, knick-knacks left in drawers". Some average pieces are saved by an image: "I once lived in a railway carriage flat" ends with "I hummed like a fridge, delighted, in the dark"; in "The Examination Room" "the girls sit on/ at their neat, square desks, like rows of cooling loaves"

A trick she uses is to let the reader discover that someone spoken of in the 3rd person is the persona - "this sardonic idiot (me, if you're asking)" p.38; "The Girl upstairs".

In Part II the stanzas have an ababcdecde rhyme-scheme. I didn't discern metre. Some of the material's quite chatty

  • "But here, though, poetry - the Holy Grail / so long - the language at its highest power,/ has got its marks back from the public: fail/ and fail again. The reasons for this are /a) that it's quaint and b) that it's obscure" (p.40)
  • "Are we depressed that faith is in decline?/ I mean the Christian faith. Except it's not/ (google 'US' and 'fundamentalism' and 'profit')" (p.42)
  • "And offering stiff competition to this strife/ in fiscal matters, to the banks' collapse,/ are daily threats bought to our Way of Life/ by man-made imminent apocalypse/ though neither really outweighs private grief or private fears" (p.44)

"There's birds in my story" is a lively piece with allusions to Carroll's Alice, and 8 consecutive instances of "whee-whee".

Part III begins with "Five Obvious Catullus Versions" - the weakest section. I liked "A Plane". "Magpies" adds to the long list of recent poems about the bird, though this one was rather long.

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