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, 17 November 2018

"Faber New Poets 15" by Sam Buchan-Watts (Faber and Faber, 2016)

Poems from Poetry London, Ambit, etc. At least 4 are laid out as prose. Here's an extract from one of them - "I regret the many potholes in the road, each with a downwards view of the water, and how I freewheeled on through an air moody with bugs, assuming always that you'd be there to meet me on the other side, a point at which we can take in both views" (p.3). I don't get it. "Moon" is ok, though wordy. Here are few more quotes and comments

  • "A hall lamp mistakenly read as a home life/ from the end of the drive by someone else's dad,/ returning the boy home from a birthday party" (p.6) - here as elsewhere a good phrase is wasted by the poem it's in.
  • "[The Plastic Sacks] rest without tension, raised a smidgen/ like the gossamer fur of soya beans,/ a sleep shirt slipping from a girl's chest;/ ominous as B-movie graveyard mist" (p.8). I don't know what this is about other than being a list of distinctly sub-Martian comparisons.
  • "it's not until we quiet again that we clock the car we're in is not in fact the thing we thought was moving" - this sounds inelegant, especially given that it's an ending. Perhaps its supposed to be, coming from a poem called "Car Game Logic"
  • "There is a choice photo stashed in my wallet,/ its creased folds powdery with friction; his profile/ is divine against a backdrop of swirling marble blue". This comes from The Dogs, a Guardian poem of the week. Unsurprisingly, Carol Rumens can see more in it that I can. She writes that "his sometimes teasing diction and detailed imagery suggest he has taken lessons in technique from senior virtuosi like John Ashbery." He's a "sceptical, serious, versatile writer, alert to the uses of ellipticism ... an accomplished phrase-maker."

Rumens' mention of Ashbery and ellipticism are a perhaps clue to why I struggle with many of these pieces. I feel I could put together some good poems by scavenging from this pamphlet.

Other reviews

  • Sean O'Brien (a poet of wit, deploying it in a war of attrition against apathy ... The challenge Buchan-Watts offers himself is to ensure that his sense of watchful disconnection doesn’t solidify into an attitude. )
  • he has a knack for the poem as prose-vignette – a dangerous task, since it risks collapsing into a case of the young poet looking at stuff. Yet here are several successful pieces in the tradition of Woolf’s shorts or Stein’s early prose poetry, particularly his ‘study of two lamps and a painting’. ‘The Days go Just Like that’ and the following poem (the same title, held within quotation marks) are the best achieved in this collection, (Laura McCormick Kilbride, Cambridge Quarterly)
  • something of a bravura display of style, control and range … ‘Car Game Logic’ is hugely impressive and ‘The Plastic Sacks’ artfully communicates its vague sense of threat hidden in the open view of daily ephemera and fuelled by society’s neurotic over-sensitivity to its own dirt and self-generated waste. … Only rarely does the verse over-balance. ‘Cowcium’, for example, veers a bit too close to the emptier end of the Me-Thinking-Cleverly school for my taste Martin Malone (Interpreter's House)

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