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, 28 May 2014

"Dammtor" by James Sheard (Cape, 2010)

First impressions - that he's a poet's poet who seems to know what he's doing though I often don't know what that is. "Thin" is a narrow poem (a mirror poem - the last and first lines the same, etc), but when it begins "Forgive me, Sir,/ I'm writing thin" are we meant to agree with him that he's running on empty? When "The Last Poem" (on the final, unnumbered page) says "The last poem was not luminous / It did not vibrate. It evoked// not very much at all." should we be charmed by his false modesty or his honesty?

"The Mithras Machine" is 8 sections of unpunctuated, unparagraphed prose, where full stops have became gaps. It's dense right from the start - "This lintel is a dark landing of cargo from that bellied perfection of our fathers around my stab of torchlight something gathers like oil hungering up the drill   I grow then crack open as false sleep sometimes does to a chemical light on northumberland moors". Contrast that with "Bread" - 24 lines, 8 of them "My mother's bread", or with

Let us buy bread and wine.
Let your bread be my bread.
Let your wine be my wine.
Let us place them in a bag
which is both your bag and mine.

or the abstraction of "Was this the sound/ of the whole unweighted mass of water,/ or its breaking,/ its unnumbered fragments?" (p.29) or of

And if I am still here,
it is in the sense of October sunlight.
I am here, then not here, then here again.
If I am here, where I was taken,
I am moments of light
on an empty ground.

And yet, he can do the kind of imagery approved by workshops -

this is the poem that rafts me into morning,
you the dark island I fetch up against.

However good some of the material might be, I suspect there's too little of it to make this book a winner.

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