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, 28 January 2017

"Maxwell's Rainbow" by Diana Syder (Smith/Doorstep, 2002)

Poems from Ambit, The North, Poetry Ireland Review, etc.

Though I like "Terra Firma", "Town of Bethlehem", "In a tea cup" and "The Second Coming" (Flash?) I prefer the longer poems in the middle of the book - they're more nuanced and open, the analogies more interesting. In "The Earth Factory" "A JCB grinds its gears out of sight,/ dumps a load of thunder that breaks/ into smaller and smaller pieces/ till a final pebble rocks to a stop" (p.37). I liked "The Devil's Arse" the most. It begins with "Jackdaw/ His voice is a hammer on the cliff,/ sore on the throat, scrapes down/ to the bone, a sudden storm in which/ everything rattles and drops sharp as stone.// His flight is vertigo, an abyss/ into which the hill folds and night falls." (p.42). It's patchy though: the Titan section's not worth it, though I like the variety of Peake Hole - "I don't understand this cavernous love./ Somewhere in my heart's chambers/ the grass has grown itself greener here,/ the houses safer, the bedrock steadier./ And so I am docked, settled with the door shut,/ fire lit, kettle on and the immense effort over" (p.47).

"The Edges" has its moments - "as the eye of the universe/ turns tender for a moment/ above the creaking cradle of earth" (p.51). The book ends with 2 science-influenced longer poems, neither of which convinced me. The persona in "Project Phoenix" asks "Alone or not?/ Either beggar belief when even/ a lifeless universe would be amazing ... How did our slippery cells ever come/ to be born among balls of gas colliding? ... If complexity is rare,/ the result of fluctuations/ in the fundamentals from one part/ to another, then we're an anomaly/ in the giddy ways of space-time/ and the worth of every creature/ rockets sky high ... but surely, any creature that is born/ from the ash of suns, builds a telescope,/ predicts a lunar eclipse and waits up for it,/ is excited, elated, consumed with longing/ at the sight and homesick -/ such a creature is well-equipped/ to cope with a fallout of wonders". In "The Lovell Telescope, Jodrell Bank", "And the farmer, what has the sky given him?/ Rain, certainly/ and the multiple stomachs of cows/ in whose tender, weighted udders/ have swung Milky Way drifts/ of fat globules in solution.// Enough white stuff to paint/ the telescope umpteen times over."

There's some science, though it's GCSE level and classical, and the poems both short and long that I didn't see much value in tended to be the science ones - "Newton's Law" (an inauspicious start to the collection), "Genes", "The Cell", "Protestations of Innocence", "The History Game", and "Time of the month".

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