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, 12 December 2015

"Ingathering" by Dawn Wood (Templar, 2013)

Poems from "Magma", "PN Review", etc. It's been on my list of books to buy for a while.

She doesn't like telling a simple story even in short pieces, though "Aleph" begins simply enough - "As swift cleaves air/ and air cleaves swift/ so absence acts/ and I take flight// to watch the swifts" then later "absence folds/ to ornament oblivion". The short lines and later lurches into obscurity made me suspicious, but I reserved judgement.

By "Zion" (p.7) I'd begun to lose trust in the poet - are things being told in as simple a way as possible, but no simpler? I wasn't convinced. Embedding striking imagery in otherwise obscure, line-broken text is a risky tactic, especially if one doesn't demonstrate one's credentials first. "Re in Dat" (eh?) ends with "isn't it the snake,/ that dream of meaning,/ that we have to resurrect?", a stanza which could have concluded many of these poems - the style allows such disjoint open-endedness, and a good many readers enjoy such a style, giving the poet the benefit of the doubt.

In "Wheel of Fortune" I can see a poem trying to get out. Its 2 stanzas have the same number of lines (which might explain the padding), and the rhetoric of the phrase "Give it to me to be the spider" (meaning "Let me be the spider") draws attention by part-repetition. "Amber" ends with "We never missed what mattered,/ we hardly see it yet -/ he and she, appointed sands,/ amber between I am". The first 2 lines of this continue on from the rest of the poem, but the final 2 lines look more like avoidance of being conventionally comprehensible, rather than having a positive merit - points lost rather than gained in the game of trust. At "There was a Robin Sang" I reached the limit of my endurance; the rest of the book I skimmed.

"Judgement" is a poetized anecdote that long outstays its welcome. "The Magician" has an arbitrarily line-broken phrase that's sacrificed clarity to little effect, speaking in riddles - "Better to infiltrate// the air of the piper/ who's paying, than fall/ for the sober thunder/ of the self-made tempest". Which piper pays? Do tempests and thunder go together?

Not my type of poetry, but certainly poetry that others might like.

Other reviews

  • Richie McCaffery (Northwords, p.21) (For all of the adventurousness of the vocabulary in these poems (sometimes a line left me scratching my head), they possess a winning pared-down quality – a sharpness of image and a bareness of tone combined with an almost elliptical writing style. )
  • The real estate

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