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, 29 July 2015

"femenismo" by Joanne Limburg (Bloodaxe, 2000)

Poems from 6 magazines I've been in, plus some other magazines I could have been in.

"Curse" begins "Good luck is like old money./ I was born into it/ and wear it like a shrug", ending with "And all I want to do/ is sit around like them in bars and cafes,/ blaming my lack of it". In between the persona regrets their luck for 25 lines. "Out with the Muse" begins with "The Muse and I/ are out on the piss./ He's squeezed up next to me,/ with a bottle of Bud/ and eyes that follow the barmaid.". So far so good, but like "Curse", "To the bride, from her best friend", "The nose on my face", "Mother Chicken Soup" and "The Whip Hand", its middle section is a list that goes on too long - a shame, because most of these poems have some good lines. "The Return" and "Sisyphus' Daughter" are rather better in that respect, though there are too many line-breaks. "The Queen of Swords" isn't much, nor, given its length, is "To the Bride, from Her Best Friend" or "Bogeyman". Maybe the short poems are more intense? Alas, I wasn't keen on the 4 short poems on pages 24-25, or "Thriller" or "The Would-Bes".

My favourite poem is perhaps "A Lesson in Ballooning" which is longer than a page too, and, strangely, is in triplets. Here's an extract - "The city's asthmatic wheeze grew faint/ as I breathed in the pure, blue/ laughing gas of almost-heaven. ... Then I discovered/ that I ... had slipped, quite gently, out of my skin/ like a tomato in boiling water. At once I was vomiting sunset// as if I were a spoilt birthday/ girl". I like "Autodollography", though I'd prefer it as 6 prose paragraphs. I liked "Scaling the North Face of Hopkins". And there are passages in several poems that succeed for me - e.g. "I've got stuck again/ in the kind of poem/ where it's always 3 a.m./ and usually raining.// The wind makes metronomes/ of the cypress trees./ Imagine the wind as a feeling,/ pulling me inside out/ like an umbrella in the storm " (p.30).

There are several poems about the death of a father. The theme of skin as protection figures frequently - "a life spent in her skin", p.14; "abandoned skins", p.17; "slipped, quite gently, out of my skin", p.18; "tears are washing her face away", p.26; "She wakes up peeled, absorbing/ stale breath. Without her skin, / she will dissolve in the rain", p.38.

Overall, I think she's best at page-long poems, but not those that have a stretched middle between punchy start and end lines. The book's entertaining and accessible rather than absorbing - good as a first collection.

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