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.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

"Ghost Station" by Sue Hubbard (Salt, 2004)

90 pages with poetry on them! The poems have won prizes in Cardiff, National Poetry and London Writers competitions. There are several pieces about paintings (some of them little more than descriptions of the paintings).

Amongst the first 6 poems were 3 that put me off

  • "Stereoptica" begins "They did not know, inhabiting their real skins, unconscious/ of the moment's true currency they would be frozen as history", which sounds terribly high-flown to me.
  • "Eurydice" has 3-line stanzas. I've no idea why. However, having the lines stepped just makes the poemizing worse.
  • "Rooms" begins with "Out beyond", then has about 20 lines of description, then "there is only/ something felt, something/ inaudible, an impossible/ longing rising in a plume of wood-smoke". Ah, that old trick.

Not much later, "Reckoning" pushed me nearly beyond the tipping point. After about 20 plain lines about a daughter in distress, there's "Now I sit beside you, watching you/ realise that perhaps what I urged/ was right all along ... as you watch your chickens/ come painfully home to roost". This doesn't seem to be an example of dramatic irony.

At the start of "Flood" an extended metaphor is introduced - "His sentences spill like rivers across/ her wide plains breaking dry banks// She is drowning in words.". In the middle section "She tries to escape to the safe hilltops/ of herself, to sail over ... attics filled/ with dead bees and dust". I like that section. Finally, (too Freudianly?) "as she gulps for air, he pours in./ The whole briny force of him.". She pushes some metaphors way beyond their natural life span.

In "Sheen", "Everything is still, silent, frozen,/ as two dragonflies, like small helicopters,/ dart across the surface". I think I've seen that triplet of adjectives together before. I've certainly seen those little helicopters before.

In "Digging to Australia" the narrator recalls being at an English beach, her/his "arm disappearing/          to the elbow in the wet/         dark hole,/         digging to Australia.//How did they hang on,/ that's what I wanted to know", ideas that have appeared in many poems, but rarely with so many spaces. At the end, years later, there are "your fingers/         entering and opening me./ as if mining some deep damp dark,/         as once/my arm plunged/ into that cold wet hole of sand,/         digging to Australia". Even more spaces, but it still doesn't work for me, though I like "Rope", one of the other poems at the end about lonely women.

I've been picking on the bad points - unfairly perhaps, though these had more of an effect on me than the highlights. More editing was needed, I feel. Also I sense little attention to line-breaks, or to the material of language.

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