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, 5 July 2014

"The Poetry Review (V.104.1 Spring 2014)", Maurice Riordan (ed)

This, the Poetry Society's magazine, has been going since 1912. Folio format, 144 pages. The last long-term editor, Fiona Sampson, wrote "I was reading 60,000 unsolicited submissions a year ... A really high proportion - a fifth - of the magazine when I edited it was by people who hadn't had their first book published, or who weren't well known". It's interesting to see how the new editor is shaping the magazine. There's a 16 page interview with Hugo Williams, about 30 pages of reviews, an 8 page essay on Gottfried Benn, and work by many poets including Paul Muldoon and Vicky Feaver.

There's a selection of poems from America's "Poetry" magazine (part of what's to become a regular exchange) with poems by Gluck, Patricia Lockwood, etc. In his introduction Riordan says "whereas in the 90s poets in this country reconnected with the vernacular, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry its its brief hegemony in the States." He thinks that L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry is now part of American poetry's DNA, and that the poetry has "something strenuous in the stretch and flex of the line, giving them a more willed vitality, a noisier heft of the barbells". I'm unsure what he means by that but here's part of the Lockwood poem (which I like) -

... Every bone in the snake
is the hipbone, every part of the snake is the hips.
The first sound I make is silence, then sssssshhh,
           the first word I say is listen. Sheep shearers
                 and accountants hypnotize the hardest,
and lookout sailors who watch the sea, and the boys
who cut and cut and cut and cut and cut the grass

The 2013 National Poetry Competition winners are announced. They beat about 12,000 other entries. Here are the first and last sentences of the top 3 -

  • If a flower is always a velvet curtain/onto some peepshow he never opens,// it’s a shock to find himself sheltering/ from the storm in a greenhouse,// seduced by a leaf blushing blue/ at the tips, begging to be stroked. … He attempts to cool himself, thinking/ about sea horses, Hippocampus erectus,// listening to the rain refusing to stop, / soft against the steamed-up glass ("Bernard and Cerinthe", Linda France)
  • There was a metal door that took both hands\ of a strong man to open\\ but we did it daily. … Sometimes we spun them on the make-believe dance\ floor, trying to turn despair into a party. ("Among Barmaids", Paula Bohince)
  • Outside, air is balancing itself. … There’s a science and a logic to loving you,\\but there’s superstition on a night like this\  and all the stirring of the world to settle first ("Love on a Night Like This", Josephine Abbott)

Poetic at the start, emotional at the end, they're all in 2-line stanzas. Lines in the same stanza are usually nearly the same length. In France's poem the maximum difference is 14mm, though usually it's far less - no mean feat (the judge says that they're "precisely honed couplets"). The maximum difference in the other 2 poems is more like 5cm, but that happens only in a stanza or 2. The shape of things to come.

The reviews can be rather cutting. Strand's poetry is "bogusly gnomic and flippantly inconsequential" with "windy and irritating musings". Nagra doesn't get off lightly! I expected Helen Mort's book to get an easy ride. But no -

  • "Opening with a scatter of glib biblical analogies"
  • "It's astonishing, in fact, that Mort can satirise the impulse to 'make a blockbuster / from this', while making an equivalent poetic gesture herself"
  • "so many poems here bluff out into contrived wordplay just at the moment where something real might happen"
  • "Similarly catastrophic is ..."
  • "This is, too frequently, a poetry of the easy option - an obscurantist punnery taking the place of any deep engagement"
  • "disappointingly, this sleight of hand - the cheap trick switched into the place we might expect something real or profound - seems to be the characteristic move"

For details, see their website.

No comments:

Post a Comment