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, 15 November 2017

"Luna Park" by Grevel Lindop (Carcanet, 2015)

Poems from "London Magazine", "PN Review", "Poetry London", "Stand", "TLS", etc. I was impressed by individual imagery and the overall imagery arc of the first poem, "Cosmos". It begins with the night sky - "Between Orion and Gemini, an almost-full moon" - then the influence of distant objects on water - "Wrinkled tidewater tilting at the lips of Morecambe Bay" - then resemblances between heaven and earth - "Galaxies of cow parsley edging the valley fields./ Slow explosions of lichen on the fellside boulders". From fields we come closer to home before reaching out again at the end - "An ink-slick spreading in the pen's furrow:/ gold keel ploughing an ocean of churned Norway spruce.// All of it drawn and drawn into the pupil's black hole,/ the dark that cannot be seen, the space that is everything else".

But the third poem, "Bed", is disappointing - unsurprising imagery and structure. In section 1 the bed's a "great book. Open the covers". In section 2 "it's a boat ... that tilts on the tides of sleep" then in the final section "it's a grave, the narrow space where each day's laid to rest ... the morning provisional resurrection that one day will not come."

"Pencil", "Pupil" and "Pomegranate" are segued associations, some rounded with a pensée. In "Pencil" for example, there's "the point at first hypodermic-sharp,/ then an aircraft-nose, streamlined but soon/ softening, snubbed by the flow of paper/ that streams against it, an abrasive sky/ whose friction will humble it to a mere nub, unhelpful cobble" ending with "reach for the sharpener, you deserve/ point, clarity, a pristine world/ for your thoughts. Though there's imperceptibly/ less of it each time, and a little less.". "Cigar" (which won 2nd prize in the 2014 Kent and Sussex competition) has some interesting facts about cigars, ending with "Both of us end in ash."

He can do iambics too -

In spring we walk by Seven Springs,
fresh water welling from the earth,
a long pool welcoming the dogs
and children shrieking their delight;
the shattered water's upturned sky.

Sometimes there's rhyme

Disordered times: an almost rainless spring,
hot April, sun and freezing winds that bring
leaves and white blossom drifting to the door,
dusty and littered on this marble floor

though overall I don't care much for the "Slugborough Eclogues" section from which these extracts come.

Then there are travelogues, some more prosey than others

  • from "For Our Lady of Guadalupe" - The taxi windscreen's broken,/ lightning-starred with a crack from one corner:/ signature of a stone from Oaxaca road./ It drops me by the shanty-town of stalls/ where I will buy her plastic image later -/ garish, I hope, and cheap,/ for kitsch is authenticity
  • from "The Letters" - Soon after dawn, one side of the square's lined/ with housepainters, electricians, plumbers hoping for work./ They sit against the cathedral railings, each/ with a hand-lettered cardboard sign affirming his profession

There are some short-lined rhymed pieces, and "The Graveyard Yew" which has a abadeedeb rhyme scheme. Here's a sample

No: the yew's flesh is white, mottled blood-red.
You might carve two chess-armies from one trunk,
the scarlet-marbled buttermilk that's spread
like bull's flesh, or the fat that laps
the human struggle of a stopped heart
no voltage will restart.
On dark and day its rings are fed, it traps
those opposites with patient art,
the branches shading where the roots are sunk.

Though it's a stanza that I selected more or less at random, the craftsmanship is evident. I like the imagery, and the organisation.

On pages 77-92 (yes, it's a long book) there's some prose about New Orleans 4 years after Katrina. Moreso even than some of the poems, it has a BBC Radio "From Our Own Correspondent" feel.


  • Adam Tavel (Marked by its descriptive lushness, its multicultural immersion, and its formal dexterity, Luna Park achieves a rare harmony, proving itself one of last year’s best books.)
  • Edmund Prestwich (I found it hugely rewarding, though I have difficulty with Lindop’s faith in what his website refers to as “the ‘deep imagination’ – the place where our individual insight and creativity connect with universal archetypes and spiritual dimensions”. Sometimes I felt this faith gave a soft-centredness to the writing.)

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