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 13 May 2015

"The Shared Surface" by Jane Monson (Cinnamon, 2013)

This is a book of texts that are promoted as poems. One of them came 2nd in the Cafe Writers Competition 2012. George Szirtes writes of the book that "The prose poem offers the expectation of prose (linear syntax, an interest in narrative sequence and doing, and a by-no-means universal preference for metonym over metaphor) while looking to evoke the experience of poetry (looser syntax, less interest in narrative and more in being, and a preference for metaphor). ... There is a cumulative power in the poems, the sense of a story that seems to be unfolding although it is mostly folding back on itself".

The "shared surface" of the title is primarily a table which appears in many pieces, though I guess it also could be the page. The texts have no line-breaks. The first piece, "The Photograph", like most of the other pieces in the book, doesn't even have paragraph breaks. Here's its beginning and ending

  • "Only parts of her face are lit, but she knows that's her mother. She is at the far end of the table, where the shadows collect; her gaze is comforted there"
  • "And so the rest of us are left, still not speaking, but wondering: who is trying to kill who and is that our cue to speak, or be excused?"

The situation is described at the start, and there's a conclusion at the end - a shape that many of the pieces follow. Here's the beginning and ending of "In Difference"

  • "His fist pounds the table and makes the plates jump above the cloth. Water hiccups to the top of the glasses"
  • "He doesn't believe in gluing things together. This is not a symbolic statement - he just believes in replacing. Based in this alone, their marriage has never been whole, fixable."

I like "Journey towards Dinner", "The Cool Hands of Luke", "The White Ribbon", "Beam of Light", and "The Artist is Present II". That I like more pieces towards the end suggests that I was gradually getting to grips with the genre, though even then I found "At R.S. Thomas's Table" puzzling in a so-what way.

I couldn't find any reviews online.

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