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Showing posts from April, 2020

Review - “The Lonesomest Sound” by Mike Ferguson

Alan Baker “The Lonesomest Sound” by Mike Ferguson, pub. Knives, Forks and Spoons Press. 100pp . “The Lonesomest Sound” is a post-modern sonnet sequence. The sonnets are not in conventional form, in fact they’re prose poems, but the collection has many of the standard features of a sonnet sequence; discursive language, compression, and an overall theme. The opening poem of the book seems to act like a prologue; entitled “When Searching” it implies that the poems might be enacting a quest of some kind, but does so in typically irreverent tones; “Find things, find love, find happiness, find peace. They are all in the wardrobe. Keep advancing the pages. To be reliant on the acquisition is to close all the doors.” Indeed, that is what a reader of this sequence has to do; be open to where the language takes you, don’t close all the doors. The traditional sonnet-themes of mortality (“The Speed of Death”) and the passage of time (“Waiting a Long Time”) are present, and the see

Review - Raymond Roussel, "The Alley of Fireflies and Other Stories"

Simon Collings Raymond Roussel, "The Alley of Fireflies and Other Stories", trans. Mark Ford, The Song Cave, £13.95, 100pp. In 1989, a trunkful of previously unknown manuscripts by Raymond Roussel was discovered in a furniture warehouse. The find radically expanded our knowledge of his writing. Two documents of particular significance were a full draft of Roussel’s second novel, Locus Solus , twice as long as the published version, and a draft of a third novel: The Alley of Fireflies . The latter is mentioned by Roussel in the posthumously published How I Wrote Certain of My Books but appeared to have been lost. The text of this draft third novel is now available in English in a fine translation by poet and scholar Mark Ford, along with two previously unpublished episodes from the full draft of Locus Solus, and two early stories illustrating Roussel’s use of homophonic puns to stimulate his imagination. This is the procédé Roussel describes in How I Wrote Certain of My

Review - "Cracked Skull Cinema" by David Briggs

Steve Spence "Cracked Skull Cinema " by David Briggs pub. Salt Publishing    62 pages    £9.99 David Briggs’ third full collection is his most interesting so far. These poems engage with his familiar cultural concerns and as the title might suggest there’s a skewed approach to matters which is very topical and immediate even when the references are located elsewhere. I’d go further and say that this book has a more ‘full-bloodedly’ political feel than his previous volumes and I think this reflects the turbulence of the times we are living through. There’s a sustained ethical base to these poems yet they mainly avoid didacticism even at their most overt (‘First they Came…’, for example, which updates yet echoes Martin Niemoller’s famous piece) mainly through what I’m going to call the ‘distortion’ of the narratives. These are intriguing poems which often puzzle and divert the reader’s attention, appearing to be saying one thing while suggesting another y

Review - "Sky Burial: New and Selected Poems" by Peter Gizzi

Alan Baker "Sky Burial: New and Selected Poems", Peter Gizzi. Pub. Carcanet. £11.99 This book starts with a tour-de-force of new work; a series of remarkable poems, including the title-poem of Gizzi’s forthcoming collection, due this autumn; "Now It's Dark" is a searingly personal poem, and at the same time a profoundly literary one:        When my brother lost his voice I lost my childhood              lost the sun over sand in some place I can't                                                                 remember        in Rhode Island summer Earlier in the same poem, we have:        Reader, if I could I would bring back for you            a sun made in crayon.        A sun unformed in a paper sky. The direct address to the reader, in an echo of the nineteenth century novel, and the foregrounding of the artifice of poetry ("a paper sky") is combined with very personal mode in a striking combination that Gizzi has prepared the ground

Review - “Undertones” by Chris Turnbull and Bruno Neiva

Tom Jenks “Undertones” by Chris Turnbull and Bruno Neiva, pub. Low Frequency Press (2019) When I first saw this book, I was immediately put in mind of one of my all-time favourite collaborations, Supernatural Overtones by Ron Padgett and Clark Coolidge, a game of linguistic lawn tennis, where Padgett captioned ‘images’ created by Coolidge which were actually oblique, poetic texts. With Supernatural Overtones, you have the sense of two very different minds pushing one another into new territories neither would have found alone and you get this sense too with Undertones. I don’t know who did what in what order in Undertones and I don’t need to. There are clearly a number of processes at work here but to try and itemise them would be like one of those Behind the Music documentaries where they isolate Roger Water’s bass or explain precisely what Robert Plant was doing with his tambourine in 1975. The processes here do w

Review - "The Baudelaire Fractal" by Lisa Robertson

Simon Collings Lisa Robertson, The Baudelaire Fractal, Coach House Books, £12.25 In 1984, a 23-year-old Hazel Brown, a Canadian, arrives in Paris with the ambition to become a poet. She rents small rooms in cheap hotels, takes menial jobs, and has fleeting, unsatisfying affairs. Brown describes herself as ‘haunted by the problematic ratios of sex and art, of anger and sadness’, equations, she says, looking back on her life, ‘she has never solved’. Brown is the same age as her creator, Lisa Robertson, and like Robertson lives in France. They share other biographical data, and interests, the boundary between autobiography and artifice repeatedly put into question. ‘These things happened, but not as described,’ Robertson says in an epigraph. This ‘doubling’ of Robertson and Brown is mirrored in the experience Brown describes of reading the notebooks of her younger self:           I reread to live doubly… It is not possible that I was that girl, splintered,           imploded, swi

Mark Goodwin - Poem

Mark Goodwin Exaggerated Colours & Trials At Caernarfon Airfield Heatwave July 2018 an am ber tinge has arrived it’s an as-if an as -if of Span ish spi rits as if see through tawn y frag ments of S pain have settled on Wales . Caernarfon Airfield’s pale bronze grass shudders a gauze at the air field’s north forty or more farmers’ grey & black four by fours are parked like army hard ware the odd daz zle-glint from wind screen or wing mirror to east two egret-white wind turbines slowly wind threads of a wavering elsewhere’s air to west yellow oven-hollowed dunes & jiggling marram and the faint blue cyclical sound of sea meeting with particles of ground and mountains to south & east are dark er blues of layered sheets of silence as one standing- still man’s whistle slices a clear signa