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 13 December 2014

"Blue Movie" by Bobby Parker (Nine Arches Press, 2014)

There are poems from Magma, Orbis, Stride, etc. The extended blurbs on the back cover are by Melissa Lee-Houghton and Sam Riviere - other addiction survivors. It's almost a new school of poetry.

The first poem, "Factory Spirit", introduces several of the themes. It begins -

Tell your dad you are close to the beautiful poem,
living in a makeshift moon, running from evil
pictures. Don't compare prescription drugs
to a mother's hug or a daydream made of paper,
that will only make him angry

These moons, comparisons and pictures appear later in the book. Note that the persona's not antagonistic. Later,

he desperately longs to see the factory spirit,
to know there's something else before
they lay him off again
A robin on your neighbour's fence is holding
a small crucifix in its beak. Your dad sees it too
You tell him sometimes
you wish you were a ghost, so that you could make him happy

The father with "thin, white hair" might be thinking about death (the final 'laying off'). Again the son tries to please, though there's a hint that the son self-sacrificingly feels that his death would take a weight off the father's mind.

He tells you that he drifts through the old
buildings every night, talking to the dark,
it reminds you of love ... his lucky silver lighter
is broken and that is why he isn't smoking.

The father and son end up having much in common - talking to the dark, and needing help to kick a habit. Things don't always work out so tidily in other poems though. Here's how "Knots" ends -

I thought about my mother
until I felt much better and took more drugs.
I'm suddenly aware how dark it is; how lonely
people sound when they laugh about drugs. So cold,
so scary now. It was not like this before.

The title and content remind me of R.D. Liang's "Knots" - inescapable tangles. There's much internal conflict in this book - guilt about letting parents, wife and child down; conflicting desires. Notions of a single underlying "self" are undermined -

  • Sometimes he's the father, sometimes the son. Sometimes he has mother, wife and a daughter to get acceptance from.
  • In one poem his friend thinks he's possessed and invites him to a church.
  • There's a variety of viewpoint. For example, the last 3 poems, all ostensibly about the same person, are in the 2nd, 3rd and 1st person
  • Much of the time he's seeing himself through others' eyes, aware of their expectations. Any self-pity isn't self-absorbed - others are always involved.

The persona doesn't implode, but seems unable to live enough parallel, independent lives to keep everyone (including himself) happy. Something has to give. Several poems mention writing poetry. One can imagine poetry being a refuge where multiple perspectives can easily be accommodated, the self-image instability becoming an advantage. In the poems the borders between the real and the imagined are usually clearly delineated, and grammar doesn't buckle under the strain. The clashing viewpoints within and between poems are kept in precarious dynamic equilibrium. The imagery's vivid

  • If you are like me and you want to write
    a poem but you can't because your heart
    is a farmer kicking mud off his boots,
    send me a photo of your mother's hands.
  • I daydream about heroin the way some people describe
    their mother's cooking, or how it feels to cum so hard
    you temporarily go blind and lie laughing beside a girl
    with eyes like eerie twilight coastlines.
  • It hurts so much
    my thoughts are like the horrid steam I saw
    rising from a bald man's head in karate class
    when I was ten years old and scared of aliens
  • Those heart-stabbing
    notes to self: 'Help them more', 'Buy her flowers',
    'Never be the one who turns out the light'.

My favourites are "Factory Spirit" and "Heroin Lullaby".

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