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, 18 January 2014

"Hide" by Angela France (Nine Arches Press, 2013)

It's one of those collections where if the meaning of a symbol's unclear you can use another poem as a dictionary to determine the meaning. Popular words are "cunning", "old", "house/home" (in 11 poems), "bone", and "mud/earth" (in 9 poems). "door" is used at least 15 times. "To Whom it may concern" begins "Please find enclosed a key;/ it will unlock a door in every house/ I've ever lived in" but keys are in short supply. "tree" is used at least 7 times, seldom relieved by birds, and windfalls are the most common fruit. There are 10 mentions of "window" and 7 of "mirror". There are 9 mentions of "name" and several of "word" - language is a poor substitute for feeling, though its loss is a significant sign. Some poems feel too symbol-heavy to me, especially when surrounded by other poems that dip into the same symbol pool. The real-seeming observations/superstitions are, like the symbols, often repeated. I suspect that "wait", "watch", "listen" and "study" are the most common verbs.

Except for a few poems like "Getting here from there" the collection didn't come over as Deep Image - too many of the symbols have conventional meanings - nor particularly Jungian. The most common person is the cunning old woman - not so much as Jungian archetype, more as grandmother and role-model - "Card sharp" begins "Cunning, we never caught her cheating" and ends with "her sideways twinkle at us/ making sure we knew she cheated/ when it didn't matter".

I'm tempted to classify the poems -

  • Strategies - In "Prospect" (almost a prologue) after some searching the poem ends with "Look inside./ Learn to wait". In "Ursa" a tree becomes a bear. It's watched, not followed. In "Hoard", hoarding becomes obsessive.
  • Self - "Getting here from there" portrays a day, a life, a self "Sightlines" has multiple Is - "I who is not-I". "Doppelgänger" describes the "other" using "hoard", "shadow" and "tree". Family visits" and "Homecoming" (and maybe "Dogma" - about "The things he held sacred") are about ancestral ghosts. In "Now, under the trees", "I could become tree and twig, songbird and owl". "Stolen" begins "Someone took my name today". In "Other tongues" "I speak with multitudes"
  • Hidden Rooms - They appear in "Hide", "Some of these things are true" and "Private view" - a symbolic panic room in a building/mind that proves not to be as safe or private as first thought.

"What is Hidden" has an abbaa rhyme-scheme - "How swifts live a whole life in flight; ... what terrors wake me through the night" - but forms are seldom used. Themes matter more. In "Spy" the persona hides behind coats and adopts some of the strategies - watching and listening

I radioed that my cover
was secure;
they think I'm mad;
didn't wait for an answer

In "Spatial awareness" the tongue fails (not for the first time), then thought fails. What's left is the body, feeling. Not eating ("Not madeleines/ but damp bricks in small spaces") nor enjoying physical activity, or reproducing. Hey. let's have a party. No.

So of the many meaning of "hide" - a tough skin, evade detection [from death], etc - the prevailing one might be a bird-hide: "self" = a place to be silent and alone so that one can observe without being seen.

I like the material (and the tone of the striving) more than any particular poem. I liked "Getting here from there", "Canzone: Cunning" and "The visit" most. "School for identity thieves" combines 2 all-too-common workshop ideas - taking 'identity theft' literally, and imagining being trained for a task you wouldn't normally get training for. And the poems that use extended metaphors, over-used imagery, or lists of already mentioned images, didn't appeal to me - "Forgotten trails" (too programmatic), "Private view", "Windfalls", "Hide and seek", "But would you go back", "Nanna's luck" ,"Decent".

I needed to look up some titles -

  • Anagnorisis - "is a moment in a play or other work when a character makes a critical discovery". In this case a search reveals that "My only surety is carbon and water, ashes;/ language as sensation,/ no words".
  • Petrichor - the scent of rain on dry earth.
  • Sam Browne - see the wikipedia page

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