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, 30 September 2017

"Ticker-tape" by Rishi Dastidar (Nine Arches Press, 2017)

This was my holiday reading, mixing old and new. The poet was educated at Oxford University and the London School of Economics. Bloodaxe has already published some of his poems.

It's worth first flicking through the pages - it looks different to your average poetry book. It starts with a flowchart (which works for me), and later has poems with redactions, hashtags, etc. I'm not keen on list poems though, and this book has several.

The first poem I was struck by was "Contour", which has a neat "Michael Donaghy sonnet" feel to it. It begins with

In every map is a kind of trance,
a whisper that insists geography
is destiny, no matter what you say.

where much is happening beneath the appealing surface. "In" (rather than "on") is an unusual preposition to use with maps (and usually something is in a trance rather than the other way around). Also there's a lot of difference between a trance and a whisper, so sliding from one to the other is a challenge.

Then it mentions the bridges of Königsberg - "an unsolvable problem, and so is your desire to keep moving". I did topology at university. By proving a more general theorem, Euler showed that Königsberg's bridges couldn't all be crossed without crossing at least one of them twice. I have trouble equating that to the issue of desire. In particular, the Königsberg issue has been resolved. The poem mentions "new topography" later, which fits in with the title but not with topology (just as astronomy and astrology don't mix well). So though my first impressions were favourable, I ended up being less sure about the poem.

Some of the book's aesthetics are new to me, hence I found my reactions varied a lot from poem to poem, and even within poems. I like much of "A shark comes to dinner". "The anniversary issue" sounds good too. I like "The last neon sign maker in Hong Kong" (online at andotherpoems - excellent subject matter). I gave up reading the title poem after 2 pages though, and I didn't get "Bantz" at all. "Towards a singularity" is palindromic (first line = last line, etc - 22 lines). p.57 is also formally interesting - a sonnet interrupted in line 13 by some prose, though the prose isn't interesting per se.

"Gunmetal" is a list poem including fun like

  • The sky is as cold as an ersatz gazpacho made out of a homeopathic Aldi tomato (homeopathic because there's only a hint of taste in the tomato?)
  • The sky is not the sky: it is the sea having got terribly confused at JobcentrePlus

"We are Premier League" is a list poem with many allusions that I understand (We are charitable visits, making dreams come true ... We are court appearances in Armani suits ... We've parked the bus and we want more ... We are 17th place and we are class, etc). However, I'm not sure that the point's worth making any more - an open goal.

"Diagnosis: 'Londonism'" has couplets like

and my shoe leather is too precious
to walk beyond the green belt that chokes us


What must we know of life beyond zone 6?
It is a fine rumour, but does not exist

I'm unsure what to make of this. It's clunky rhyme (he rhymes more elegantly elsewhere), but without knowing more about the persona I can't work out the intention. Similarly with "Risk Patterns". Take this section for example

You know we're an island, right?
How do you think most people
got here first? They didn't fall
from the trees, or spring up fully formed
from the heather. Some sort of sea crossing
may have been involved

Is someone trying to correct a racist bigot by pointing out what to the persona seems obvious? Or is persona's shallowness being made fun of? After all, for much of the time we've not been an island. To me, Brexit's a rather complex issue. And how do the line-breaks fit in with the character. Are they there to show the persona's pomposity? What's wrong with prose?

"Diversity campaign" is fun, though an entertaining magazine column (or "The Office") might also mention "employees representing the 'rainbow of happiness' we'd like you to believe we are - the smiling, camp White man; the pretty, submissive East Asian women; the Afro-Caribbean guy who we still feel is threatening so we've put him at the back; the South Asian wearing glasses - obviously he's good with numbers. Although we never manage to include the wheelchair user we're always meaning to"

Some notes -

  • "nebbish" (p.16) - describes "a person, especially a man, who is regarded as pitifully ineffectual, timid, or submissive"
  • "TOWIE" (p.25) - The Only Way Is Essex
  • "bantz" (p.26) "using word play, opinions, exaggeration, irony, sarcasm, and other comedic themes to (playfully) humiliate"
  • "DFW" (p.30) - David Foster Wallace

Other reviews

  • Jeremy Wikeley (Ticker-tape reveals the list’s wit and relevance, but also its constraints: it will be interesting to see where Dastidar takes the form in the future)
  • Dave poems
  • Farhana Shaikh (It’s only in his epic-poem, ‘Ticker-tape’ that I feel that he unwinds, let’s go, and consequently let’s it all hang out. It’s a joyous poem of 80 lines about love and London, home and life in the city which started life as a piece of prose. Written through the eyes of a female character it overwhelms and overflows)
  • Christie Williamson (marries project management and social media, politics with good old fashioned unrequited love, and clearly shows a fresh, original and important voice)
  • Dzifa Benson (the second section of the collection doesn’t wield as much heft as the first)

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