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 December 2017

"A Present of Quince" by Jennifer Petty McMahon (mudfog, 2015)

Poems from Poetry Review, PN Review, Stand, and BBC Radio 3.

I like the flow of most of the poems - not too smooth or jerky. My favourite is perhaps "1. Waterlily 2. Lullaby 3. Piano Practice". "Deciding to excavate Sutton Hoo, 1938" is based on an interesting moment, and could have been far too direct in its treatment of time. I didn't like "Modernist Verbs" much though.

Some of the imagery is rather mundane - "Black undertow of tide/ rumbled foreboding" ("On the Beach"). "Record and Art" deals with how art records, using imagery which doesn't try quite hard enough - "The fluttering of nature is stilled in the hieroglyph ... While his flocks wandered, we heard the hopping pipe. Now heads are totted and numerals close the stops". Some of the imagery tries too hard. For example, in "The Milk Cart" we sense that the people in the cart feel like royalty, but "spokes rose and sank in homage to our throne" doesn't ring true. "Mustard Gas and Influenza" is a villanelle about a widow. The odd line struggles - "At last his parents low as she must stoop;/ They send his heirloom silver in regret./ The rest was coping when she could not cope".

Amongst the rest there are worthwhile phrases - "Her plump arms scabbed with dough,/ his boots standing empty, askew after a long day" (p.18), "In our turn, come lighter days,/ having mostly griefs to shed,/ we cast cotton garments, and with them/ all our years, a lifetime's dash/ to reach that nakedness/ no painting can redress" (p.31), "Death is extravagant,/ a spending all we know we have and more" (p.20), etc.

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