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, 1 February 2014

"The Longing Machine" by Marcia Menter (Happenstance, 2007)

The cover has a heart with gearwheels (maybe an escapement) inside.

"The Course" first presents an analogy - nerve damage is like a path being beaten through long grass to a river, and pain following that path. This analogy's put in the mouth of a doctor (to give it credibility? to humanize it?). Then love replaces the pain. The pieces in place, the poetry starts

The love was real. The love was not.
The love was love you didn't want.
The love is yours. You have to walk.

At the end

I walk the only path I know,
where all I love will be taken from me,
even this track of beaten grass
where I walk and bear the mark of love.

There are a few sonnets, but the dominant style is a two-pager where line-breaks don't matter, and sound plus concision are sacrificed to maximise the chances of being understood. I find many of these poems about a third too long, interesting though many of them are. Poems like "The Track in the Snow" and "The Longing Machine" are built around good ideas so a few extra lines don't matter. "House and Garden" has much less to fall back on.

Especially towards the end, the independence of mind and body becomes a major theme. Another theme is late realisation of the meaning of an event/dream. These two themes come together in "Dream", where it takes 25+ lines to describe being ceremonially burnt to death. At the end,

I couldn't have said
what the dream meant then; but now, but now
I've lived two decades more in the world
and at last I am beginning to know.

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