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Review - "Silo" by Andrew Taylor

Alan Baker


"Silo" by Andrew Taylor, pub Red Ceilings, 43pp.


In 2018 Red Ceilings published Andrew Taylor's sequence "Aire", a series of haiku-inspired pieces centred around his house in rural France; moments of stillness and observation captured in spare language that also included the numerical Pantone colour codes to describe objects, thus foregrounding the textual and linguistic nature of the observations.

"Silo" builds on the work in "Aire" but is quite different; the pieces are denser and the tone more intense. But there is still a meditative atmosphere. Here's an example:

     The sheep are up clear ivy reveal
     the render it's still hat wearing
     weather the slope intact gathered
     piles of fallen branches like markers
     in low cloud olive in colour aside
     from very pale blue 538 CP lighting
     and angles deceive orange of tile a
     firm breaker a small shelter.

A single sentence, no punctuation, descriptions piling up and the witty use of the Pantone  code to describe the colour, yet the overall impression is one of calm and centredness. After reading a number of these pieces in succession, the run-on sentences can sometimes cause the words to be abstracted from the text, as the verb 'reveal' is in the passage above, appearing momentarily to have 'ivy' as its subject, whereas it's the poem's narrator who is doing the revealing.

"Silo" is vivid and concrete throughout with zero 'poetic' language. There is immediate perception and close observation, but the poems are aware of themselves as language and text. Towards the end the pieces take on an almost celebratory tone, but are restrained by the focus on concrete particulars which prevents them becoming portentous, as in:

     Gain interest in the rawness of reality
     the singing that rises above distant
     machinery hum those songs that
     capture the sense of human fate
     presence & absence light &  mass it
     continues as the brewing stops with
     kitchen baking aromas the
     instantaneous of recognition

The nightingale, a bird more easily found in rural France than in England, is one of the motifs in Taylor's recent poetry, and one poem describes its "alert song rich and fluty", a description in italics, suggesting it may have come from a book. Similarly, there are snatches of a sales brochure in another poem. But generally, this is not collaged or found text, rather descriptions of everyday events and sights with an awareness that the language used to describe them distances the viewer from them.

In this small booklet of forty short poems, Taylor is continuing his poetic project stemming from John Cage, from the minimalist strand of American poetics, from the notebook poems of Jack Kerouac and from contemporaries like Harriet Tarlo. The result, transposed to rural France, has a distinctive style which is all its own.



Copyright © Alan Baker, 2021

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