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, 3 January 2013

"Earth Records" by Alistair Noon (Nine Arches Press, 2012)

Peter Riley writes on the back cover that "The bite of modernism shorn of academic mysticism cohabits contentedly with lyrical plain speaking".

It begins with 40 Shakespearian sonnets. It ends with a series of poems about celeb poets in unusual settings ("Basho at St. Andrews" (a haibun), "Blake in Munich", "Pablo Neruda in Aylesbury", etc. My favourite of these is "Keats Somewhere or Other"). Between, there's a short section about Eastern europe, borders, etc. There's much mixing of past and present, of here and there. Three extracts from the sonnets will give you a flavour

Hey look, a written word! It flaps and lands
with its fox-red back, grey head and zebra wings.
For several quick seconds it simply stands
under a North German Buche. It blinks

As you see, the work isn't syntactically-challenging

Alternatives? The open end of chess,
a mix of art and engineering discourses,
machines that function both when damp and dry,
gulls at rocky coasts that can float and fly

This is the conclusion of a sonnet. Even here (a rhyming couplet), the ending isn't a punch-line. It's common for the poems to keep two or more threads open, leaving them unresolved.

Although these lesser hounds are known to bite
the legs of larger breeds who think they're chief,
it still remains an asymmetric fight:
the bigger dogs retain their bigger teeth
for when they threaten to deploy their forces
and deprive small mouths of their protein sources

I wonder what experienced formalists would think of this, because it clearly falls within their critical scope. Those last 2 lines don't seem to add much.

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