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, 15 March 2014

"Parallax" by Sinead Morrissey (Carcanet, 2013)

On p.9 there's an 8-line definition of "parallax" that I didn't need. It's other stuff that I'd like help with -

  • I don't know what "the see-through// boy with his quiver of arrows" could be (p.13). A too-obvious cupid/lover? A thin drug-pusher carrying syringes?
  • I don't understand "through the ransacked terraces of your small intestine" on p.18. Stadium terraces? No. Hillside vineyards? Doubt it. 2-up-2-down terrace houses? Maybe, but where's the relevance?
  • "Home Birth", where the "you" is the older child at the time of a baby's birth, ends "And you were the white dot of the television, vanishing -/ vanishing - just before the screen goes dark". TVs like that disappeared long ago, but my main concern is for the fate of this older child. Or is it just that this older child will no longer be the focus of attention?
  • As with her previous books, I have trouble understanding her line-breaks. For example, I don't think that "The year the Great Ship Herself is fitted out at the mouth of the Lagan, her panelling drilling through and threaded with miles of electric cables and her gymnasium horses ..." (p.15) needs 2 stanza breaks and 5 line-breaks.
    In "Fool's Gold" and "Through the Eye of a Needle" the flying saucers of her previous book's "The Hanging Hare" are back.

I like parts IV and V of "Daughter" though I'd prefer them without the line-breaks; moreso if they were in a story or novel (into which they could be inserted without changing a word). I like the content of "Photographing Lowry's House" and "The Evil Key". "A Matter of Life and Death" is my favourite - shame about the stepped triplets; it needn't be 3 pages long. Prose would be more compact. There's too little sheer poetry to justify the layout. The persona's going into labour. It's early days yet. The spouse writes a letter for the child to open when s/he's 18. On TV is "A Matter of Life and Death", an old film starring David Niven. He jumps out of a burning plane while talking to a female radio operator. The persona walks up and down the street past emptied bins. On TV they're in heaven. Wings are being handed out, names added to ledgers. She recalls her granny "shifting my mother from one world to the next, and how that birth/ cut short her happiness at the Raleigh bicycle factory in Nottingham/ where her youth was spent in secret war work, typing up invoices". Niven's not in heaven. He lands on a beach, meets the radio operator, falls in love. The persona baths in lavender oil then imagines her granny, dead for 3 weeks "making room as she herself predicted" alive again - "young glamorous, free ... flicking open the leather-bound ledger and asking him to sign."

"The Mutoscope"'s content looks plain to me. It's in terza rima, with rhyming triplets like "blackness / vanish / static". The first 60% of "The Coal Jetty" has standard content and a pretentious, poetical layout. The rest of the content saves the poem. I guess the title of "The Doctors" refers to the people who doctored photos. Bizarrely, it's in 8-lined stanzas where a half-line begins each stanza! The stanzas of "Lighthouse" have assonance endings - ababbcc. The lighthouse "blinks and bats/ the swingball of its beam, then stands to catch,/ then hurl it out again beyond its parallax". Nice imagery, but where's the parallax? Asked "Why 'birds and slatted windows'?" in this poem she replied "Two things associated with lighthouses - but they are also evocative (at least to me) of a troubled interior space. So they are the connection between the lighthouse and the little boy". Maybe my problem is that I don't have the same evocations, but I do recall many poems where people identify with lighthouses.

Each time I read "Blog" I think I must be missing something. It seems such a weak way to end a prizewinning book. Oh well, I think I've discovered another of my blindspots.

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