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, 17 February 2016

"The Bridport Prize 2012" (Redcliffe Press, 2012)

Short stories, Flash and poetry. I can't help comparing the categories. Is Sarah Taylor's Flash piece any better than a short story's final paragraph should be? Nowadays I'd send a poem like "Cooking with Elizabeth Craig" to a micro prose magazine.

The Flash judge Patrick Gale wrote "This year's flash fiction entries were a revelation to me, perhaps because this is a form I have never knowingly practised". The Flash he chose is ok. I liked nearly all the short stories he chose, though some more than others. Naomi J. Williams' piece is on the enticing brink of magic realism. Sophie Green's has good characters but not such an enticing plot. Sandra Jensen's is perhaps too linear. Mel Murphy's piece uses a plot I've used: it recounts the rare meetings of a girl and her rather younger male cousin from when he was 4 to when he's a father. David Foll's piece set in Venice does little for me. "Mating Week" uses a few analogies that are too obvious, and some inelegant phrasing - e.g. "she took out her mother's few bits of silver jewellery and the polish, and rubbed at them hard, and even cleaned the drawer they're in that she never opens". "The Armadillo" seems ordinary. "Jugged Hare"'s main plot is that a mother who's just had an abortion prepares a hare. It ends "And there it is, done. Just one more cigarette before she starts clearing away the mess. Then out into the icy twilight to bring them all home. The house will soon expand as children run in from the cold: bright hats bobbling, blood-flushed cheeks, snotty noses, frozen fingers, bags on the floor, coats on top, shouting for the meat they will smell on the stove". "The Things That Never Happen" puts side by side 2 ways a life might have panned out. "Blue Summer Dress" is a "chimp as partner" piece. Well-written. "Aurora Borealis" is in the 2nd person, and often continues a thread well into the future for a paragraph before continuing the plot. I've seen the idea before and am tempted to use it in my next story.

Nearly all the poems conform to the convention that all lines should be the same length and all stanzas (except perhaps the last) should have the same number of lines. "My Camel" is in a form, "Cormorant Fishing" is a partly-rhymed sonnet, and "Barley Lane" combines strange line indents with a lines-per-stanza pattern of 4/6/4/5/4/6. I like Charles Bennett's "Borrowed Light". A few of the poems have a final twist after a list or a deceptive description. I don't know whether "My Camel" is worth a place. Maybe. "Two Trees" and especially "Morality" didn't impress me. "La Peregrina" starts well then falters. Gwyneth Lewis was the judge. Perhaps the poems she was given had a narrow range of styles.

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