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, 18 April 2015

"A Republic of Linen" by Patrick Brandon (Bloodaxe, 2009)

My interest was piqued by the first poem, "Mountain Man", which begins "Hot-wired bears have forgone the berry,/ ripping car doors off at night, prankster jocks/ crashing through the brake on a candy high". The next poem, "Grand Union" was a disappointment though. A few pages later, "Dolphin" and "Higgs Bison" were good. But what about this?

The All Night Service Station within the Heart
Sometimes the furred tongue fails the work,
just lies there, underwalked and overfed,
barely raising its wet tip
as the simple words flicker over
and fly out into the world.
The outsize Letraset sticks messily
to both referred and unreferred.

And deeper in, tetchy heart
tut-tuts through uneventful hours, cousined
more to the stapler than the cricket

I like the title. In the first line it's "fails the work" not "fails to work", so the furred tongue is in the role of an inspector. "underwalked" makes the tongue more like a dog. Then the tongue's a tongue. The first stanza's final 2 lines concern the unreliability of language, I'd guess, but why "outsize"? After that I'm lost. "cousined"?

With such poems, containing parts that sometimes don't work together for me, I wonder whether it's the poet's fault (i.e. other readers have the same opinions about the poems that I do) or whether it's down to individual taste.

I like "Flat Dad" but not "Bikini", "The Rolodex" or "A Sloping Pitch". I like "Night Signals" but not so much "Wildflowers", "New World Guest House", "The Lawn", "Sunday", "Single Lens Reflex", or "En Plein Air". Many of these poems have a good image or two, but sometimes these images just have a bit of backstory tacked on, as if that justifies calling the result a poem. The imagery's nevertheless well chosen, often kickstarting the piece -

  • Attic
    Morning dabs its bread at the window,
    trying for the rough-cut meat
    of faux Tudor beams
  • Night Signals
    Just as Jodrell Bank intercepts the discreet sobs
    of pulsars from the padlocked
    basement of the stars

I'd like to read more of him.

Other reviews

  • Liz Berry (very much a collection about observation ... Yet conversely it is often failing to see properly that is at the heart of the poems ... The strongest poems in the collection are those which deal with small intimate glimpses of the everyday ... A few of the shorter poems seem less deserving of their place, leaving the reader wishing that Brandon had taken the idea further and explored it more fully.)

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