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.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

"The Cloud Corporation" by Timothy Donnelly (Picador, 2010)

"This is an extraordinary collection - the poetry of the future" (John Ashbery). There's getting on for 150 pages of it, from magazines big and small (Harper's, Iowa Review, Critical Quarterly, Grist, Paris Review, the Poetry Daily website, etc). I found the book hard to read and started skimming quite early on.

The poems have ruthless (because arbitrary) layouts, with lines in 2s, 3s or 4s, sometimes centred. There are odd exceptions - "Clair de lune" is a villanelle. p.50 is free form. There are cut-ups - "Dream of Arabian Hillbillies" for example uses extracts from the theme song of 'The Beverly Hillbillies' and a tract by Osama bin Laden. In "No Diary" the italicized phrases are taken from chapter 8 of Charles Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) and from Schopenhauer. I suspect the text can be read in 3 ways - just the italics, just the roman, or all together. Here's the start

Through the chinks of the trap door / what we call life
presents itself as a kind of task, namely that of acquiring

amid all the horrors / more of itself, but as this task is
undertaken, stepping out from its shadow, there appears

a few minutes later / another, more difficult task, namely
that of distracting one's thoughts from the burden of

at every moment / another, more difficult task, namely

"Between the Rivers" has essay-like sections

A large harvest of reeds

drawn from one river to roof our houses also provides
long-lasting baskets, cradles, musical pipes, and the wedge-
shaped stylus with which we write on soft clay tablets.
The clay is taken from the other river. Writing comes from

our accountants. Hunting for food continues in the wetlands

The title poem is 8 pages long. It begins

The clouds part revealing a mythology of clouds
assembled in light of earliest birds, an originary
text over water over time, and that without which

the clouds part revealing an apology for clouds
implicit in the air where the clouds had been
recently rehearsing departure

Here's the start and end of "The New Intelligence". Wise generalisations again -

After knowledge extinguished the last of the beautiful
fires our worship had failed to prolong, we walked
back home through pedestrian daylight, to a residence

humbler than the one left behind.


That the goal of objectivity depends upon one's faith
in the accuracy of one's perceptions, which is to say
a confidence in the purity of the perceiving instrument.

I won't by dying after all, not now, but will go on living dizzily
hereafter in reality, half-deaf to reality, in the room
perfumed by the fire that our inextinguishable will begins.

The beginnings don't inspire

  • "Bled" - "Thereafter it happened there would be no future/ arrangements made as the present had begun/ handing itself over to the past with such vehemence/ whatever happened already happened before/ or stopped its happening the moment it began./ To look forward meant looking in where you stood/ astonished to be looking behind you instead/ into the distance where the water's surface split/ and spread to a pane of undisturbed waters"
  • "The Rumoured Existence of other people" - "I dreamt my household consisted largely of objects/ manufactured by people I would never meet or know/ and some of these objects dangled down from the ceiling/ while others towered dizzily upwards from the floor"
  • "Bulletin from under the bed" - "Then it all starts seeming like a terrible mistake/ but to turn back now would only serve to make// matters even worse, bringing as it would the very/ seeming of the first condition into finitude, hastily// plastering it in history, and thereby giving shape/ where shapelessness has so long worked to our advantage "

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