Perhaps it wasn't a good idea to read this book after having just attended a workshop that discouraged narrative and the use of "like" in poetry - "In bed" is a 16 line poem (4 abba stanzas) which used "like" 4 times - and there are many narrative pieces. Here's the plot of "Writer" - a writer removes words the way he once removed legs from a daddy-long-legs to stop his gran being distracted by them when reading in the garden - did she ever wonder why he stared as the grass rather than enjoy the sun?. I like this as a structure, but I don't see how the perfunctory poetizing of this plot improves the reader experience. That said I prefer it to "Mythos" which is 3 times longer with a less worthwhile plot.
Several of the poems end with a rather flat final stanza that contains some obvious fact or imagery. "Home videos" ends with this stanza
It keeps the detail, unlike|
memory. Whole swathes obliterated in between
cannot be loaded and screened, we know. This
is the only stake that's held, and time is mean,
and it always stops mid-show, like a lightning strike
followed by a blizzard - and this triumphant hiss.
It's abcbac though the line-lengths are so irregular that listening to the poem one's unlikely to recognise the rhyme scheme.
Escaping the "wrong" way from IKEA in the 22-line "Panic", the persona finally "emerged in daylight/ as someone might who, escaping// from a theatre's fug mid-scene,/ finds himself out on stage,// dazzled; pretending to be gratified/ by his own applause", an image with has been used before. Other imagery sags sometimes too - e.g. "bowels", "obese" and "landslip" in "I reach into the bowels of your oldest files:/ what are lives but the illusion that all this// matters? So easily scattered, it slides/ into the third bin-bag, already obese, in a landslip of receipts" (p.35).
"Spring class" is the favourite amongst the earlier poems. I think I prefer the longer pieces that keep changing direction, not the one that dawdle - In "Via" for example "The central point was a pillar of stone/ in the Roman forum - about which everything/ revolved and back to which everything// came as the suspended ball in a game/ of skittles rests from its swing: a needle of stone,// a node, something to kick at, not the end of the road/ but the beginning, the start" - a good enough comparison, but a lot of words.
As poetry I think the elegies are nearly all failures.
- Carl Griffin (Wales Arts Review)