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, 25 September 2012

"Grain" by John Glenday (Picador, 2009)

I liked the first 2 poems, then noticing that some mainstays of poetry vocabulary were being repeated, I did some word-counts. "light" (8), "shadow[y]" (10) and "dark[ness]" (8) represent one theme - Light; "absence" (4), "nothing" (2), "everything" (6), "never" (6) and "forever" (3) represent another - Absolutes. Add in "father" (6), "heart" (9), "song" (7) "world" (5) and "sea" (6) and you have a heady mix. Some of the 43 poems use several of these emotive words. p.4 has "no where", "no one", "empty", "absence", "shadow", "song". p.5 has "thing", "always", "never", "shadow". p.6 trumps that with "things" (2), "everything" (2), "forever", "beyond" (3), "never", "heart", "soul", "silence".

At times I felt that the permutations had run their course, that a poem was preparing the ground for (or pre-empting) others (like in some John Burnside books). The sharing of keywords doesn't mean that the poems share intent though. In this book there's a variety of theme and structure, with loose forms and wordplay thrown in. "Island Song" and "Loving Cup" might be xaxa, "The Kelp Eaters" is in rhyming couplets, and 8 poems use a prose format. I like "Epitaph", "Imagine You are Driving", "St Orage", "And What is It", "Tin", and "Song".

According to the back cover he has "remained something of a well-kept secret" and is "an essential voice in contemporary poetry". In small doses he's refreshingly good (he's had poems in the "LRB" and "Poetry(Chicago)"), and has a handy line in popular lyricism -

  • "The soul makes a thousand crossings, the heart, just one." (p.7)
  • "If I were asked to construct/ a world that wasn't there// I'd make its every surface/ scrupulously blue, and you/ the only resident" (p.37)
  • "Silence the colour of snow/ settles against everything we love" (p.40)
  • "Not one of us will live forever -/ the world is far too beautiful for that" (p.48)

Other reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment