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, 8 July 2017

"Coastal" by Jane Duran (Enitharmon, 2005)

Poems from Poetry Review, Poetry London, etc. The first part is about places, returning to the past, recapturing lost moments, and her mother's decline. The second part (which I didn't think as good) is about adopting in a hot country.

The title poem begins with "I love your old age". Here's stanza 4 -

The seals have grown old
here too, in the worn-out
quilts of the sea, gusts.
We breathe the same air.
Some nights they look in at us
from the galleries of their whiskers,
streaked with salt, with mating.

Note how "Seals" are equated to "you" and then to "we". "galleries" is audacious - I suppose their eyes above their whiskers are like spectators above a box at a theatre. I don't get "with mating" though I don't know anything about seal sex.

Here's the start of "Cape Porpoise, Maine" - "I go back to that walk,/ island to island/ across the mind at low tide". The substitution of "mud" by "mind" changes a lot. The penultimate stanza continues the figurative thread - "I go back so I can walk/ past my own past into hers"

Later, in section 6 of "Overlays", the seals and islands are brought together - "the seals are see-through, like an anguish.// My boy follows a wavy line with his fingers./ At low tide we can still walk out to the islands./ We can walk as far as we can see,/ as far as you can remember"

At times there's very deliberate juxtaposing that I don't get. "I climb into a boat on the pond ... On the steep hill above the pond a harvester is gathering hay ... My boat is bent flat, gathered as if to fit into a bottle/ and the harvester is loading the high fields/ with tiny bales of hay" (p.16)

Punchlines can appear anywhere - e.g. "Stroke" has "I go in search of what is missing" 6 lines from the end, whereas "In the certainty that everything can change/ in a moment" (p.43) is line 2.

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