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, 23 March 2012

"The Dark Horse 28", Gerry Cambridge (ed)

96 pages. 26 poems. In the editorial Gerry Cambridge writes "the magazine's subscriptions currently stand at over a third more than they were this time last year". I'm not surprized - each of the 5 essays in this issue could make you re-assess or re-discover a poet, changing your reading habits for life. The articles make you want to read more poetry, and the writers have room to do more than applaud the poets' strengths

  • Denis O'Driscoll of Kay Ryan - "What repels in Ryan's work are instances of plain deficiency: whimsy and patness take their toll; her functional language lacks a distinctive texture; and her one-track approach to composition and form grows monotonous ... on the whole, her poems are too rhyme-driven" (p.17)
  • Katrina Naomi interviewing Sharon Olds - "Other critics, such as Stephen Knight, have complained that there is little difference between your collections, or that there's little difference within the books .... One of the critiques centres on your writing as therapy" (p.37-38
  • Fleur Adcock on George MacBeth - "he could often be rather silly, and when I look back on quite large areas of his poetry it seems to have evaporated or turned wooden ... the topical references sound very tired these days, and the humour can only be called feeble ... MacBeth's reputation is easy to demolish if you look at the wrong poems, and there were whole swathes of those: violent, cruel, tasteless ... excessively florid, sentimental" (p.54-59)
  • Clare Polland on Frederick Seidel - "Each subsequent collection has, similarly, been both praised and spurned. He even makes his admirers nervous ... unexpected, bathetic, clanging end-rhymes that critics have compared to those of Dr Seuss" (p.64-71)
  • James Byrne on Peter Redgrove - "Critics of Redgrove's poetry (and there were many during his lifetime) contended that his poems were uneven. ... Al Alvarez and Craig Raine initially criticised him for a perceived unevenness and unfavourably compared his poems to Ted Hughes', as many have done and continue to do" (p.86)

The poems are fine too. Though there's probably a higher percentage of formalist poems than you'd find in most magazines, they're still much in the minority. My favourite is the non-formalist Peregrine by Caroline Hawkridge. It begins

1. Foreign, imported from abroad, outlandish
2. Kind of falcon much used for hawking.
                          - Concise OED

The blog sings
Four golden plover, three ...
then says the cathedral was table
for woodcock
while the country sat down
to turkey

If you're only interested in poems, then maybe this isn't the magazine for you. If you assume that subscribing to a magazine (or knowing the editor or being well-known) gives you the right to have a poem accepted, then think again. The rest of you should give it a try. The back-issues don't age, so you could try those too. See The Dark Horse website for more information.

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