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.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

"Sandcastles at Evening" by Martin Lyon (Acumen, 2010)

There's terza rima, a villanelle, sonnets, aaabb stanzas, and translations from Latin. "Genesis" has stanzas with rhyme scheme ababccc and syllable count of 7, 2, 7, 4, 8, 8, 11. There's also a lot of subject matter and diction that's traditionally been associated with such forms.

In a review of this pamphlet, Richie McCaffery wrote that "The opening eponymous poem ... shows the poet's interest in impermanence, of human effort undone like children's sandcastles against the waves". The poem delivers what the title promises, but no more than that - the subject's challenging enough as it is, even without the handicap of trying to wrestle new meanings from old imagery - using both sandcastles and evening is asking for it. "Monster Hunting", "Death Dates", "Genesis", "Fame", "Balls" and "Poetry Competition" drag too. The latter for example, ends with "Yet, as we marvel as such lack of talent,/ A dreadful doubt demands, "Can we do better?". Fair enough I suppose, but in any case the preceding lines add nothing of value.

I can't trust the tone of "Iona" - is there any irony in "Iona, at last!// I muse ... we climb/ The village street; how sublime/ To breathe carless air! - no exhaust fumes or engine noise ... I fancy that Wordsworth still wanders muttering, I hearing/ His rapt sonneteering". Do people still muse? "Gedi Ruins, Kenya" lapses into yoda-speak towards its conclusion - "So tranquil is it here, so cool, so grand/ That fear or hate of death seems empty spite,/ For death, like life, feels rich, divinely planned.// May I pass gracefully when falls the night,/ And slumber like these ruins, robed in white". Before that however, "Archaeologists, as if in feathered shoes,/ Have paid brief visits". Feathered shoes? Hermes?

However, "Close Encounter..." is nothing like that, and elsewhere taut phrases like "The ground-horse bucked" from "An Atlantean Speaks" contrast sharply with the spacious prose of earlier poems. It's as if different audiences are being targeted within the same pamphlet. But even given that, I'm not sure that (say) "Poetry Competition" is "good of its type".

Other reviews

  • Matt Merritt, Richie McCaffery, Sue Butler (Sphinx) ("There’s something rather old-fashioned about this debut chapbook, but in the best possible sense ... for the most part this really is a little gem" (MM); "His poems reassure me that rhyme is alive and well" (SB))
  • Daithidh MacEochaidh (Stride) (as a whole this pamphlet was a joy to read)

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