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.

Friday, 21 December 2012

"Talking with the Dead" by Anne Caldwell (Cinnamon Press, 2011)

5 of these poems come from Slug Language. I initially liked the book, but was much less sure by the end. I thought too many poems were routinely developed from sometimes promising ideas. "A&S Forever" started well

The dinosaurs went extinct on Christmas Eve, and humans started roaming the earth at 8.30p.m. on New Year's Eve

Grief is carboniferous

but fades. I still like "Slug Language". I like the start on p.61 too.

You can say what you like to The Dead
but talking to the living
is a shout down a mobile as you enter a tunnel

"Stretching the Canvas" works hard. The title makes me think of preparing to create an image. Stanza 3 is

Wind tugs the loose canvas of the Irish Sea,
The Aquatania [sic?] pitches in the swell like a pot of paint.

Cunard's four-funnelled Aquitania was decommissioned in 1950. Then we read how thousands have "watched the watched the watercolour of their country slip from sight". The narrator remembers a lover who used to "sketch my white skin", then

You named me your water sprite,
traced blue streams on my skin's map

The final 2 (of 17) stanzas are

I rip up your letters as the ship
swings towards Ellis Island,

stare at the Statue of Liberty
rising out of the mist

The poem began in Liverpool. Without mention of the voyage we seem to have arrived in the New World - a new start, but a bit literal, the imagery too fitting. Or maybe the narrator had visited the "Immigrant Museum" and had really only taken the ferry.

I was puzzled by "Open Season". I didn't like "Angel" (of the North), "Blackbirds" (in a pie), "Premature", "Ghandi visits ...", "Unwanted Guest" (aka "the C word"), or "Hibernation". The retellings add too little, the treatment is too bland. In "Longing is Opened by the Wind" people wait to be rescued, their hearing "straining for rotating blades to slice the sky with hope" - I guess you either like that sort of imagery, or cringe.

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