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, 20 August 2016

"Imaginary Menagerie" by Ailbhe Darcy (Bloodaxe, 2011)

Poems from Brittle Star, Stinging Fly, Seam, The Wolf and an earlier pamphlet from tall-lighthouse. It's refreshing, albeit erratic. I like passages like this -

making them shiver, the steam whistle,

the train tracks that shudder like a mirror
in its frame when the train passes, shuddering,
a house near the railway with a framed mirror

in it. Snow is always general in Ireland now;
it is also always ashes; it is the backdrop for roses.

though things can become too strange. Here's part of "Telephone"

You took me home, all the same,
                     All the same,
the blasting veteran on our bus home
wields his unbusy stump.
It never buds purple moles,
explodes wild carrot. It stays the same.

     That's why in your arms I sing
the man with a data drive embedded
where his finger was

and I'm puzzled by (for example) -

  • "You twitch// like peeling wax or glue from fingers, your eyes/ Baghdad Zoo", p.22
  • "All the dogs in America have sisters of their own,/ all the birds have sisters, out on the highway./ Moths have moths for sisters, beating out for light,/ and I am speaking of you here, to everyone I meet", p.31 (here, as elsewhere, she indulges in repetition)
  • "You try to speak in pica, your claws kerns:/ We lay a blotched ligature.// You've bitten off more than you can mew:/ I've lined your throat with feathers", p.52 (I know what pica, kerning, and ligatures are in typesetting, but that doesn't help)

I liked "The Hotel" and "Molly Ban" too. I wasn't convinced by "Dog Song", "Shoes", "Spawn", "Caw Poem", or "Observations on hearing she was leaving Australia for home".

"The Monster Surely" is in couplets, each couplet containing "monster" and "spectacle".

Other reviews

  • Miriam Gamble (Magma) (In one of many gems in this extraordinary first collection ...)
  • Poem of the week: Silt Whisper (Guardian) (Her work is funny and stylish, with an agile, zesty erudition and no lack of political fire. But the quieter poems are appealing, too – poems like Silt Whisper, which is oblique and tender, and reminds us that poetry's language needn't always strive to say it all. The strategy of writing as if slightly out of breath is nicely chosen)

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