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, 11 October 2012

"Misadventure" by Richard Meier (Picador, 2012)

Winner of the first Picador Poetry Prize, with HappenStance's Helena Nelson amongst the acknowledgements. I liked the title poem and several of the others, though similarities of structure became apparent.

The first poem, "Winter Morning", describes a momentary feeling about light and shade, ending with "closer that dearest thing, completeness,/ all her darkness light at the one time". In the final poem, "Da capo", a frosted window's surprisingly bright. The ending's "stunned/ how sometimes there's just so much light,/ and how it is I never learn". It's the first poem's search for oneness that dominates though; in "For a bridge suicide" a women climbs a stanchion until a fall would make the water hard - "when water's transformation is complete,/ a point at which the whole of the earth's surface// is uniformly unforgiving". "Moment" deals with the same issue more directly.

Several poems are sooner or later revealed as metaphor

  • In some poems ("Physiotherapy", "Opening and closing of the double-glazing man", "Tables for two", "Write about what you know", "Blackberrying in a time of recession". "We'll always have Paris") the title is the metaphor clue.
  • In "The Feeder" the metaphor clue comes half way through the poem. In "Still", a glance in a mirror reminds the narrator of an illustration of a man and woman in a biology primer.
  • Several "anecdotal" poems have a final-line twist. For example, "Three weeks to go" describes seeing a guide-dog, ending with "but the way that that dog danced -/ that's how I feel about marrying you".

"White out" is a list of 3 metaphors. "To a new teacher" sets up some comparisons - old job vs new job; reading Homer vs gardening. At the end "you're leaving Limbo now, in your own style./ Simply, amply, with your book, your trowel".

Some of the poems sound too easy-going. "Compos mentis" labours a gentle point. "That we might have a garden" is about clearing the gravel (but what is "coin"?). "Relative" begins "In the sixties, of course, no one ever/ said no" and ends with the revelation that the topic's not sex - "everywhere you looked, work, work, work". I think I've heard that joke before. "On the road out of Roussillon" seems slight. Is "Please collect all winter coats" worth a poem? "Canute explains" has a neat twist but is overlong and I don't know what the line-breaks do in passages like "Three years later, and king now,/ I got married. Odd/ how we clicked, Emma and I,/ she being the old king's widow./ Still, she liked me, liked/ teaching me what she'd learnt/ about the country (she/ was a foreigner too)./ To my amazement, and hers,/ I got into all things/ English. Even the food."

There's wit and humour too. Here's the start of "Sky Sports"

The gods, who can see feelings, love
to watch us as we foist emotions -
hard ones, largely - onto others.
Imagine paint-ball but with shame,
or envy, rather than emulsion

The poems are usually regularly-stanza'd (though the final stanza's sometimes a single line). "Early learning" is xaxa

Other reviews

  • Richard Meiers
  • Mark Sanderson (The Telegraph)
  • Sean Colletti (Stride) 'Three weeks to go' (my joint-favorite piece with 'Canute explains') might be the single best use of the metaphysical conceit ever. ... a debut collection of the highest standard.
  • Carl Griffin (Wales arts review)
  • Neil Gregory It is a work of delicate texture, layered in folds, so that the space between the fibres of the words shows through variously with light and dark, hope and hopelessness

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