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, 11 June 2014

"Glass Wings" by Fleur Adcock (Bloodaxe, 2013)

There are 70 pages of work in this PBS recommendation. The back-cover blurbs pre-emptively mention that she has "a deceptively laid-back tone", that her "style is deceptively simple", and that "she has made a fine art from holding on to principles of orderliness and good clear sense".

I'd call the first poem, "At the Crossing", prose. It seems laid-back - I like it. But "Fox" shows what what happens when there's no deception. In "An 80th Birthday Card for Roy" it says of birds that "They would certainly fly more gracefully than my stumbling public-private poem (you know how tricky such commissions are - although you'd bring to them your customary elegance, intelligence and wit)". Well yes, there are many i.m./celebratory. public-private poems in this book.

"Charon" begins with "Where is Dr Shipman when we need him to ferry us across the fatal stream and land us gently in Elysium" and later has "Life was OK, but it went on too long", which some readers might think daring. There's a section entitled "My Life with Arthropods" which mostly comprises themed lists of anecdotes - "Flea" in particular sounds too much like notes for articles. There's the odd surprise - in "Wet Feet" (about damsel-fly nymphs) we read that "They were grubs, really, naked inside their cunningly decorated sleeping-bags. You wouldn't have wanted to undress one".

"William Clayton, 1725" is so prose, with a wry punchline. Punchlines precariously support several of the poems - "I shall never understand him" (p.15); "I don't regret the kiss" (p.17); "I'd quite like to be forgiven again" (p.19).

Other reviews

  • Fiona Sampson (Guardian) (Adcock is a literary writer in her limpid, apparently artless style and the precise emotional intelligence of her observations)
  • Janet Wilson (Glass Wings is full of such delights and shows Adcock on top of her form)
  • Emma Barnes (I’ll admit that I’m probably not the audience for this work and although in general it seemed a collection of eulogies and wills in poem form there were moments and poems that still grabbed me)
  • Rob MacKenzie (Elsewhere) (Well, the collection isn’t flawless, but is worth reading for the good poems, which tend to be very good indeed. )

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