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.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

"Tomorrow, we will live here" by Ryan van Winkle (Salt, 2010)

The Crashaw Prizewinner. He's had poems in AGNI and American Poetry Review. He was born in America, recently living in Edinburgh.

Quite a few of the poems are death-haunted. "The Grave-tender" is a pantoum. "Retrieving the Dead" is a sonnet. "The Water is Cold" begins "and my grandfather is dying". He's not mentioned again, but in the 4 stanzas, "violet", "orange", "grey", "blue" and "green" are, the final line being "adrift in the spectrum". Remains feature in several poems - "always I dream/ that you will look for me, find a sign in my bones,/ craft a sternum pendant" (p.24), "the ashes are back to ashes, the dust/ follows dust" (p.40), "Safe, thinking my bones/are buried, that the past is the past/ is the past, and I am not coming home" (p.42)

The "Unfinished Rooms" sequence is flat - for example, the first poem in it ends "It was an attic room/ with a slanted ceiling/ and there were times// when it was so still,/ cold and quiet,/ it felt like camping". I liked "Babel", "Bluegrass", "The Day He Went to War", "Last Night, I Should Have Driven Straight Home" and "Waiting for the Ocean".

Many of the poems have a narrative. There are dramatic monologues, but also poems where a single theme is followed through to the end. In "I Was a Fat Boy", the persona once saw the world as made of sweets. At the end, "A thin man catches/ my eye from a garden. I've not felt/ so hungry for a while. The world is not mine,/ my heart wobbles like yolk". The final poem, "And Table, You are Made of Wood", begins "If you could drink the white wine that sucks/ your color the way jellyfish pull shade from sand" and ends "I could be you, dear table,/ so much wine and rings and we could speak/ of scratches - // of lost energy and solid waiting./ I too have been cut, had my meaning moved/ far from where I thought it was."

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