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 4 November 2015

"Melanchrini" by Maria Taylor (Nine Arches Press, 2012)


I like "Larkin", "Little Acheron" and quite a lot of "I woke into birth".

"Leaving" keeps to its theme and is more imagistic than many of the other pieces. It has "Thrilled by sepia brilliance, children kick/ chestnuts over brittle leaves and listen;/ every memory ends in autumn" and "Sensing impermanence,/ I felt the heaviness of falling leaves,/ that is to say, their lightness".

"Kiss" ends with "Today you will write a sonnet/ about a man who you only know in a poem./ It could be him blowing you a kiss/ as you walk through Leicester market,/ and this time he isn't being clever or ironic."


I think she writes in sentences, not lines. Some poems look like notes for a short story, including observations, twists and epiphanies. For example, "Auntie" ends "After the wake we start bagging and binning./ It's slow work, like clearing a museum/ forced to shut, the main exhibit gone". "Mr Hill" with fewer line-breaks and a few more words could be a worthwhile piece of Flash. "Here's to you" could be the start of a Flash, or a story. I'd call "The Cleaning Lady of Elsinore" a 2-paragraph vignette, though C.A. Duffy (and many others) call such pieces poems too.


Were there notes, I think they could mention that -

  • In "Half term", "I was Pebble-Milled" is an allusion to a daytime TV program that I recall seeing - Pebble Mill.
  • "The year we don't talk about" ends with "the alternative soundtrack for seventy-four" - presumably an allusion to the problems in Cyprus, 1974, though the poem's details are cryptic.
  • There's a lot going on in "The carnival of souls" - ah, her blog says it's "based on the early sixties horror film of the same name. The film itself is something of a cult amongst film fans; a low budget horror which had lain virtually ignored until it was revived in the late 80s. I watched it years ago as a teenager, one unfestive Christmas Eve, a late night BBC 2 thing, and it stuck in my memory".


Some poems rather than concluding with a moral suddenly becomes difficult at the end -

  • "A slam - something of them returns/ their children's way of saying enough,/ all that's left of echoes of echoes." (p.52)
  • "a palm pressed against a palm/ but this is no holy kiss,/ they are leading each other to the exit" (p.55)
  • "stadiums are empty, no honesty to speak of" (p.56)

Other reviews

  • Anthony Alder (a collection with a cohesive lyric voice that suggests decorously that it might be a poetic memoir. ... The second section opens with ‘A History of Screaming’, and Taylor collapses her emotional reticence like a Potemkin village ... in the final section, Taylor returns once again to her themes of age, experience, and exile in a clutch of poems that seem to be an attempt at synthesis after her extremes of wide-eyed distance and emotive near focus. These are poems less rooted in articulated experience or subjective feeling than in a self-awareness and rejection of comfortable certainty that borders on wisdom. Again, I do not always find them successful or convincing, but they’re certainly more hit than miss)
  • Matthew Stewart (she's only too aware of the shifting, ambiguous nature of identity, and her verse does an excellent job of exploring its vagaries)
  • Roy Marshall (The poem encapsulates a key aspect of this collection, namely Maria Taylor’s ability to inhabit and carry the voices of her ancestry whilst maintaining a detachment which enables her to have a conversation with the past.)

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