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 27 September 2023

"My Tin Watermelon" by Peter Daniels (Salt, 2019)

The language is relaxed.

  • "Now the woman downstairs with the dog/ is no longer resident downstairs with her dog,/ there's no longer a dog to own the garden the way dogs do" (start of "Garden Incident")
  • "But several years ago, the fig in the garden/ was chopped down to a stump with one side branch/ turned up at ninety degrees by the wall, looking/ like a stovepipe - until today: the tidy (not to say/ obsessive) gardener downstairs has cut off/ that absurdity" (from "The Figs")
  • "The other side/ couldn't take trees (phone cables following the kerb), so/ they planted a new row of moderately elegant lamp posts/ along the cable duct, plain and urban" (from "Street Trees")
  • "On the thirty-first of October two thousand and eight/ I planted grape hyacinths under the trees" (from "Street Trees")
  • "and it isn't/ The London Nobody Knows, there's/ nothing nobody knows, it's always// somebody's secret, but people/ who have discovered places/ suppose them entirely their own" (from "Bunhill Fields Quaker Burial Ground")

Quite often an innocuous start lulls you into a sense of prose until you look up and find yourself in poetry.

Just occasionally there's rhyme - "Winchmore Hill" has aBaCC stanzas, the final line always ending with "can I get back to Winchmore Hill?". The idea of ending each stanza the same way appears in several pieces. Poems like "Bottom drawer" consciously repeat phrases too, less regularly.

Sometimes a poem hits the ground running. "Find me" begins with "'Find me like a banknote in the street,/ a sudden thought,/ find me/ in the spare bedroom: now/ I'm this butterfly,/ red carpet-patterned".

"Zsa Zsa's House" is maybe my favourite. Her mid-century Palm Springs house, well-appointed, is up for sale (with a 'nine-hundred-&-sixty-nine-thousand-dollar' price tag quoted from the Daily Mail. Not $969,000? Maybe). The narrator's mid-Victorian house is near Stoke Newington, and costs more. When the narrator moved from the Midlands, London felt unreal. It ends with "I'm not the Zsa Zsa Gabor of Stoke Newington ... Write your own beautiful house, your own longing, your own anger, what's real to you. Write a part for you, a part for me, a part for Zsa Zsa Gabor".

I like "Roses" too, which is set out as prose.

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