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, 19 April 2014

"Through the Square Window" by Sinead Morrissey (Carcanet, 2009)

On the back cover it says "Infancy is for Morrissey the rich and contested territory in which what it means to be human in a precarious world is disclosed". "territory" and "disclosed" are grandiose. I'm sufficiently puzzled by her line-breaks and indents for me to distrust other aspects of her writing.

  • "I walked/ the steep road to the shore, which tips/ the earth into ocean,/ levers ocean up to heaven, as though broken in the middle by a hand." (p.11). I get this up to "into ocean". After that I lose the imagery. I'm not even sure what is "broken" - the shore?
  • "The lake, laid flat again, sloshes and jerks/ to a cat-lapped equilibrium" (p.16.). Flat or jerky? I presume that the initially flat water is disrupted then settles into a rhythm like that of liquid being lapped by a cat.
  • "Getting too much of what you've acutely missed/ too suddenly/ - the median notion botched - / can render you wary of wishing's blunt chicanery" (p.17). I don't understand it. The line-breaks aren't helpful, but does she want to be helpful?
  • Though "Found Architecture" has an explicatory tone, I still don't understand the title.
  • "The sun's an unimpeded circuitry that lights such trees along the cycle path// they shine like saints, like knives,/ where the river opens, one artery to another, to multiplying water." (p.22). Does "unimpeded" allude to electrical impedance? "a .. circuitry" is a strange usage. I can't relate to the imagery about the river opening.
  • "that absolute black can have a blacker heart, a glistening thigh/ lodged within its centre. You're plummeting within a lift-/ shaft, darker, glossier, than either the rabbit-hole or well surrounding it." (p.34). The lift-shaft's in a rabbit-hole in a well?

"Matter" is an essay disfigured by dozens of line-breaks. I don't mind it as an essay. "History" is rather like that too -

  • "Recipes for rats and 'small white puppies a child might play with' followed during the Middle Ages, which typically included hay, excrement, dirty shirts, wool simmered for an hour then hung to dry in an outhouse or chicken coop (the air of such places being itself so mutable and laden with infusoria, it acts as a bridge to life)" ("Matter")
  • "In Spain itself, the centre of the Empire, all were as one: Language, Religion, the Crafts of State, and the people flourished and were happy, the sap in the veins of a Body Politck in rigorous health" ("History")

"Vanity Fair" is in consonance/assonance couplets - etc/letter, confess/presence, love/widowhood, pause/charge, flat/it. "Apocrypha" doesn't pretend to be poetry - except that it's in bizarre couplets. "Ice" includes "where ... Common Hackberry/         & Bradford Pear/ perform a shorn prostration & are/         unable to right/ themselves; they teach the weeping/         willow how it's/ done". Alternate lines are indented and shorter. I hope I've done the poem's layout justice. I don't understand it, but if it matters so much to her it must mean something. Or is it deliberately disruptive? It's user-unfriendly to say the least. The form isn't syllabic, nor do the short lines all have 2 beats. Examples are "(woods, sugar-", "dome of heaven", "& make it real again", "transformer", "dipped in dis-". Inexcusable really. "Missing Winter" is loosely rhymed, stanzas sometimes abbab,sometimes aabab. Several poems are sonnets, loosely speaking. "Grammar" is closest to being a standard one. "Mother Goose" has a workshoppy feel to it. "Fairground Music" (6 7-lined stanzas) is Flash with a predictable plot and good final line. "Flu" is straightforward, overly and verbosely so - "And then page after page of unreadable scenes/ I couldn't get the measure of, like the clusters of dots/ in a magazine, containing a fortress/ or Tyrannosaurus rex if you only knew how to lose focus". The 7 stanzas of "The Hanging Hare" are shaped like flying saucers - prettier than the usual rectangles. I liked "'Love, the nightwatch...'" and "The Clangers".

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