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, 3 May 2013

"Safest" by Michael Donaghy (Picador, 2005)

A note says that "'Safest' is the name of the computer file in which Michael had stored the poems towards his next collection". Only 36 pages have any poetry (sometimes only a line or two) and the book ends with 9 blank pages, but they didn't want to used any material that the poet hadn't earmarked for publication. I was told that on his computer he had a copy of my Literary Quotations file too.

A "Claude Glass" is a portable, slightly convex mirror that artified landscapes that were viewed in it. Users (who had to have their backs to the view) were soon made fun of. In "Upon A Claude Glass" we're told "Don't think you're any safer/ as you blunder forward through your years ... I know. My world's encircled by this prop,/ though all my life I've tried to force it shut".

"A Darkroom" is the next worthwhile poem. The reader's invoked to help keep images sharp, to fix them. I think "From The Safe House" imagines how the poem might have been understood by someone now dead, or imagines how such a letter might have been written. Time-lines are tangled.

Claire your good wife reading you this
... in Vera Cruz
... your four brown daughters
... There are parts ...
... I've yet to write ...
... postmarked Chicago, decades late
Soon I'll ... post it
from our clapboard student commune
... Claire is beside me
I hear you hammer the ice from your boots ...
... and make the first move
I enclose [the escape drill] with some photos of my son
I have sent them you then
... instead of now, when I hear of your death
... Claire remarried and never had children

"Poem On The Underground" returns to ideas

as ancient maps imagine monsters
so London's first anatomical charts
displayed the innards of a vast loud animal
But Harry Beck's map was a circuit diagram
of coloured wires soldered at the stations.
It showed us ...
that the city's
an angular appliance of intentions, not
the blood and guts of everything that happens

There's eventually a twist, but the piece is Flash/essay. It could have been a sonnet.

p.40 is light. After "A Sicilian Defence" the pages are unnumbered. "Exile's End" is an out-of-the-body near-death poem. "The River Glideth ..." also has a persona that's not fixed in time and space.

I had trouble understanding the intention of several of the poems, though they look meaty enough to satisfy other readers.

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