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, 14 October 2015

"The invention of fireworks" by Beatrice Garland (Templar, 2013)

Poems from London Magazine, PN Review, Rialto, etc. Shortlisted for a Forward first collection prize. There are 63 pages, many of them nearly full.

Several of the extended analogies (most of which I like) last more than a page. Examples include -

  • "Crows" (in loosely rhymed couplets) exemplifies a template. Firstly a comparison is established - "It never quite comes to blows/ but the words hang around for days// like crows, enormous things". Then within the extended metaphor the poem progresses - "You raise your arms and shout ... I wear a comical hat/ on a mangel-wurzel head". At the end we return to the argument - "watch for crows in the rain/ wheeling round again,// lest more words be heard./ Lest more words be said.".
  • "Running repairs" doesn't have the framing - it gets straight in with "Such innocents these buttons, gazing/ round-eyed at what the grown-ups say -/ the endless goings-on, the fresh undoings,/ how things are left to hang by a thread".
  • "The Sea" is shorter. It begins "At night in the flat upstairs/ the bed drums like a ship in a storm:// she groans ... she leaps at each wave" climaxes with "a shout as clean as a shell,/ a shout as they're flung on a leeward shore" and ends "Fish nudge back into caves./ The anemones stir."

There are poems using end-rhyme ("Shack", "Audit", "Postcard") that struggle. "Foreign Body" has the most ornate rhyme scheme - "abcbdefe". I liked "The loss" ("xaxa" rhyme scheme) and "Primer"("xaxa" rhyme scheme) - "New languages begin like this./ At first, loose bits of alphabet/ - an S reclining by an X -/ lie randomly about the bed/ ... Joined so closely we are one/ we conjugate to have, to be,/ find fluency in this new tongue"

There's a little Maths/Science. "Nothing" is about the number zero, about "How one day nothing/ becomes something ... the power to destroy./ Multiply anything/ by zero and look:/ it becomes nothing". "Relativity" is slight. It ends with "These events took place/ light years ago./ Still, I wave goodbye", which makes me pause for thought. Is the misuse of of "light years" deliberate? Do "still" and "wave" have a particular significance?

Poems like "A private life" edge towards prose. The 2-page "A Kosovan ghost story" doesn't work for me. "The experiment" would have been more powerful if formatted like prose. I liked "Ghosts" (though the line-breaks are especially gratuitous here). "Beach holiday" wasn't worth it. I didn't like "Gitanes". "Kamikaze" felt longer than it should be."The Curse" brings little new to a common topic, and too easily lapses into prose - "Over the ancient sheets her chalky eyes/ signal the same dumb absence of hope,/ the same alarm conveying a half-surmise/ as I've seen on the moors in the gum-chewing sheep". I like the mix of "And now".

So where are all the online reviews? I think it was well reviewed in the print magazines, which comes as no surprise.

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