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, 14 November 2015

"Night Letter" by Fiona Moore (Happenstance, 2015)

11 poems from Magma, Poetry Review, Stand etc. about how dream or night incite thoughts. Thematically it's about dualities - the "night" of the title contrasted with day, but also dream/reality, past/present, life/death, body/mind. The "letters" of the title allude to the communication between these poles - dreams, shadows, hopes and memories. When a duality breaks down, when the rules of one world collide with another, there's a need to renegotiate.

I like "Numberless", especially the ending where the persona acknowledges the power of dream to show variations on reality, "otherwise long ago/ I'd have walked through the upstairs bedroom window which leads,/ by now, to many places". Dreams replay the past, explore alternatives and interpretations that were missed the first time round. They're just as real (experienced just as much) as conscious life, but physically safer. Reality provides the raw material for dreams which in turn affect reality - if only to make it more bearable. I like "Dimensional" too - a human-sized (i.e. a symbol for a human) duvet cover in a washing machine swells with clothes like a stomach, assumes the character of the clothes it consumes, clinging to everything until eventually it's hung out in a house's shadow where "it reverts to two dimensions, emptied of desire".

I think I've seen something like the title poem before - probably I've read the poem elsewhere. "London Street, Wet Day" begins "I walk fast thinking about time passing too quickly". The persona thinks back to when s/he was a child, when patches on the pavement looked like clouds. Now the pavement looks like a ladder, or a rosary. Looking up, the persona remembers when the trees seemed higher, "though I was more likely to find myself part-way up one then than I am now.". Ah, the care-free imagination of youth walking in the gutter, staring at stars. But some things are better seen than experienced. Better to look through a window at visions than crash through the glass, or fall from a tree.

"Limehouse" has 4 5-lined stanzas then a 3-lined stanza, but the indent pattern's beyond me, lines 2, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17, 18, 20, 23 indented. Lines 3, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 19, 20, 23 end-rhyme with each other, lines 5 and 23 being the thematic "a shadow on water?"

I wasn't so keen on "The embrace" which, like some of the other poems, deals with the topic of dreams vs reality. It begins "It's half dark/ and we're lying down// we embrace, we fade away./ The comfort of it and closeness/ but it feels like/ dream". The dream's vividness makes the persona finally "feel you're at once/ both nearer and further away". I didn't go a bundle on "City from a hill through open windows" either, or "Cleaning the bath" which is in stepped triplets. Oblivion beckons - "swimming free/ and out of all time/ until the mind knows the body is too numb/ to sense encroaching harm". Its allusions to Macbeth (cleaning and guilt) are echoed in other poems (murdered sleep, and sometimes a feeling that 'twere best not know thyself).

"Sleep Sonnet" has 7 lines, each of each comprises 8 syllables, a gap, then 6 syllables. Lines 1, 4 and 6 end-rhyme. "Poem in which I think myself out" begins with more imagination vs reality, more shadows, more hope - "Bare foot stepping on a bumblebee's shadow: it ought to sting. Too many pink roses for one bee", followed by scattered thoughts that could similarly be read figuratively.

"Heart" (two-column - another duality) describes the "fist-sized forge", the "multi-chambered fortune teller", how "the thought of perpetual/ motion/ contains the terror of its opposite", and how it's tested by the persona running to catch a "train at the last whistle". They get there in time.

Other reviews

  • Jessica Traynor (Sabotage Reviews)
  • Charlotte Gann and Marion Tracy (Sphinx review)
  • Matthew Stewart (If the earlier chapbook dealt with Moore’s grief and bereavement in the aftermath of her partner’s death, this new collection looks at what comes next.)
  • John Field (Moore’s line breaks destabilise the universe ... the final poem, Heart, the left and right hand columns go about their own business but are, nevertheless, inextricably linked)

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