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, 13 April 2016

"The Last Place on Earth" by Peter Sansom (Carcanet, 2006)

Poems from PN Review, Poetry Review, The Rialto, The SHOp, Stand, etc. 44 pages of poetry which includes 6.5 pages of prose (a retelling of the Wife of Bath's Tale). It's rather chatty. This is from "Ted Savoury" -

his real talent was getting the world to see
it needed a new mangle or antler coat-stand,
then turning up next week with the very thing.
And if he earned an honest living by cheating,
everyone knew the rules he didn't play by,
and bought from his van not in spite of but because

which is getting on for vignette. When the text waxes poetic, it doesn't always work -

Dusk. The moon is a sickle stuck there
I could reach out to try the edge, but flinch
from what I know about the moon

Some passages read as if they're lists of phrases brain-stormed from the title - "Banana" for example or less blatantly, this, which ends "L.O.V.E."

I am blind, which may be why
I walk you into doors,
metaphorically, literally,
always the last to know

or "Living Room" where the listed description ends with "one cupboard a dispensary,/ the other a distillery", or "I", where the associations begin visually with "that door seen from the side,/ the rope into an imagined well" then become more phonic seque-ing into "eye" and "high". Then the tone changes, becomes analytical - "But what I// really am these days,/ the mirror of my punning says,/ is my dad, except/ he was more flat cap than smart alec,/ and I'd be Clear As Mud". Finally the "I" is rotated 90 degrees to be a hyphen between dates. Some people might think it gimmicky but I like it.

Spoiler alert: "An Easy Riddle" (which I like) is about a shower.

"July Football at Abbeyfield Park" has lots of evocative detail that takes me back to childhood. Perhaps that's all a text needs to do to be a poem. I think the book depends on that hope rather too heavily though. And the "poetic" endings that are tagged on can appear awkwardly sub-Larkinesque. Here are the final few lines of "BE 243 18:20 Belfast to Bristol" about fear of heights.

Coming down is a bronco in a thunderstorm. Thrown about,
nobody seems to mind, least of all me, here:
in this gripping thriller or genius poem,
this summer of childhood, what prayer must be
if you can do it, and what love sometimes is,
as we know, me and you,
or our bodies do.

Other reviews

  • Nathan Thompson (Peter Sansom is much more than a competent poet and Carcanet is a great press, so you have to ask: what happened? I'm afraid The Last Place on Earth does neither credit. ... Is [L.O.V.E.] deliberately bad? Certainly it's not noticeably so much more clunky than others in this collection as to be clear parody. ... I can confidently predict that there's nothing in this collection that will challenge you ... if you've not read Peter Sansom before then do yourself (and him) a favour: read one of his other books first.)

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