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.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

"Bugs" by Antony Dunn (Carcanet, 2009)

This is another book that I'm having trouble with, though you'll find the poet and his poems praised elsewhere. Bugs appear in many guises - Dante's "wasps and hornets" (in "Pope Boniface's Address" comprising an octet, sestet and rhyming couple); bats "cleansing the air, yard by yard,/ of blips on their radar" (p.56). The shortest poem's 2 lines long (I don't understand why anyone would write "Please" let alone put it in a book); the longest nearly 2 pages long. Some are in loosely rhymed couplets (I rather like "Limequat" - 8 couplets with line-endings "jars/glass", "light/wife", "knots/that", "how/greenfly", etc.). "Antimony Cup" is a sonnet, but a spacious one. It was commissioned and it shows (though "Platform Announcements" was commissioned too and I liked that).

At times I wondered whether the mention of bugs was what justified a "so what" poem's inclusion. "Connecticut Bees"? "Lepidopterist" begins "He'd like to unfold her from that lab coat/ and see what kind of creature she'd become" and ends "He'd like to say something/ that she's understand, but can't pin it down" which all sounds to literal too me. "June the Fourth", set in Beijing, has a section called "Cricket" that's lost on me beyond its literal mention, and ends with "Now the heat has brought the June-bugs out/ ... the Square/ is so alive with them/ look what you can crush just by falling to your knees", which I get.

I like the idea of "Alarms" - how a minor traffic bump set off a chain of alarms until families sheltered in cellars, "praying to outlive the lives/ of batteries", ending with "how our globe must look from space - / bright as a panic button/ in the deafening distance". 49 lines though. On the back cover it says "The stories in Antony Dunn's third collection …" and this is one of the pieces that could have been a Flash story.

I liked "Nematode Worms" though the idea comes from a quote in the preface. The final poem, Ω, is an acrostic - Amen.

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