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, 10 February 2012

"Glad not to be the corpse" by Lydia Harris (Smiths Knoll, 2012)

This is less accessible than previous pamphlets in the series. One thing I sometimes do when reading poetry is look at how each sentence relates to the next. There may be a chronological narrative, perhaps with fillable gaps between sentences, or perhaps the gaps are big, the style more episodic. It may be a list poem. Alternatively, details of a scene might be presented according to the order that a darting eye or memory might determine. One needs to be light on one's feet and delay integration of the sentences to appreciate several of these poems. Here for example is the start of p.10

The rolls arrive at the Inchnadamph Hotel
She doesn't say 'I never should have married you',
instead tries I've cleaned our tennis shoes.
He spots the van through the binoculars,
the rattle on the cattle grid alerts the lad who helps.

The long title's not untypical - another piece is called "The library prefect rescues Tents in Mongolia from the discard pile". Like a number of the poems, "The library ... " is initially somewhat confusing, hitting the disorientated reader with the clearest image at the end, an image which helps contextualize the poem

Seven Stars keeps her company when the letter comes
about her mother's scan. On the bottom shelf
the 1920 OEDs, too far gone for girls to save.

In contrast, "Launderama, Albert Street, Kirkwall" ends with "I step down. Translated. It's 1861. I've been baptised/ in Burness Loch. Smoothed and folded." which is more challenging.

Though line-breaks don't play a major role, the discontinuities prevent the text being mistaken for prose ("Rosaries" being an exception). I liked "Cumbrian cottage interior" the most.

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