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 8 February 2013

"Hawks and Doves" by Alan Gillis (The Gallery Press, 2007).

The back cover says "In their formal virtuosity, linguistic incandescence and imaginative intelligence, these poems are deeply affecting and often searing examinations of the world in which we're living. Ending with major pieces that traverse the waste and beauty of our time, Hawks and Doves is an unforgettable trip". Wow. A trip indeed. The acknowledgements mention Ciaron Carson, which comes as no surprise once you start reading.

  • The 2nd poem's in rhyming pairs of lines.
  • The 3rd poem's in 5 stanzas whose number of lines are 8/9/8/9/8. The 8-liner stanzas have a rhyme scheme of abababcc, loosely rhythmed. I can't see a pattern in the 9-liners.
  • The 4th poem's a sestina.
  • The 5th poem's "Saturday Morning", 18 6-lined stanzas (compare Stevens' "Sunday Morning"). It starts

    The fart and snigger of sausages and free
    range eggs, the beans of a coffee grinder
    and light house music on a Fujifilm CD
    blank out of mind the mortuary white

Variety continues throughout the book. There are some "long" poem (more than 2 pages). "Home and Away" repeats the same word (once with variation) on each of its 30 lines. "The Lad" is mostly a list of nicknames for "penis" using internal rhyme.

The lines-per-stanza count is rarely as low as 2 or even 4. Nor are there short lines. Consequently the eye's confronted with big blocks of text. At times the pages are as full as those of a typical novel, but one has to read this book more slowly than one would a novel. Take this for example.

Her mum straightens the salt cellar with her
bi-weekly cut and blow-dried autumn red-bomb-
scare hair, the jabble and jibble of the kitchen
glinting through the jade of her eye.
She's zonked, and hears the cold pull of waters
flowing beyond the valley, hills, the horizon,
wondering what her husband might do
and who to shelter if their daughter drops the bomb.

"bomb" is repeated, rather oddly and deliberately, and the first sentence would be re-written were it prose (you wouldn't straighten a salt cellar with hair). Or what about this?

on their way to
late night malls, the news, convenience drive-throughs -

the till ka-chinging demographic, who'd like to cycle
more in the future, who drive mile to recycle
and buy organic, passing value-pack fish fingers
purchased for scuzzed children, whose eyes linger
on the shelf-bright colours, leaving by flexi-bus
for estates on the outskirts, complexes of window dust
beyond the CCTV zones

It's pair-wise rhyme, but is the content supposed to be so clichéd? Maybe. The next example illustrates a switch in style (axxa rhyme-scheme, but given the variable line-lengths, those rhymes may not be noticed by the ear).

the table with hot boxty bread. She sucks an orange finger.
His breeks are ripped to flitterjigs
as he snuffles his neb and spies and stoppled eaves
of her breasts, before gobbing a pure emerald yinger

And to conclude, here the discursive start of the final poem, "Laganside"

I cannot call back the time, lasso the millions
of minutes by the scruff of their scrawny
wee seconds, or knock out the lost years,
bop the back of their heads and bale
them into a getaway van that will welly it
to a warehouse where time is put right
by a crack team of agents

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