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 February 2015

"The Heavy-petting zoo" by Clare Pollard (Bloodaxe, 1998)

She went to school at a Bolton comprehensive (apparently the poems date largely from that time), and read English at Cambridge University. There's some rhyme, but it's mostly loose free verse. The differences between hopes and reality figure large - unrequited love, but also thwarted wishes.

  • According to the persona, "Attempt at a beautiful poem" fails
  • "Valentine" describes a let down
  • In "Dream of Explosions", the persona wants to escape from the mundane
  • "Angel Song" (which I like) is from the PoV of an Xmas tree decoration - "An afterthought in an outfit made from/ someone's old wedding dress. These needles/ bring not sleep, just little hurts"
  • "Poem for My Future Love" is another plea for extremes - "I do not want to be fond of his little ways ... I want to fall in love so hard it bruises"

There's vulnerability, lack of self-confidence - in "Light Entertainment" beer-drinking God makes the persona the star of a sit-com. In the title poem the 2nd-person narrator's at a party - "he's with her somewhere. They're probably mewling cutely at each other, or else she's stripped and pink as a piglet and they're at it like rabbits. It's sickeningly bestial. You hope they get myxomatosis. Yet in your small child's heart you know that if he'd called you, you'd have followed him as she did". Or how about this, that starts the 2nd poem - "The day that I met you/ was the first day of sun./ I was shiny and new./ You thawed me in an hour;/ made me mute as a flower -/ all good clean fun.". It's the sort of rawness that I'm only sociologically interested in. The language isn't fresh. "A Friday Night at the End of a Millennium" is 12.5 pages, short-lined, covering similar ground. "Fresher" and "Butterfly Collector" are male-PoV though the themes are the same as the female-PoV ones.

That's far from the only style in the book however - "The Butcher's Cat" is different, though it still deals with the sociology of gender. I think "Losing Control" is set in the St. Andrews St. branch of a bank in Cambridge. Something like "Hara-kiri" must have been done before. The book's final poem, "The Last Love Poem" (7 pages), is the one I like best, the only one that makes the poet look "promising".

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