Skip to main content


Showing posts from November, 2021

Tim Allen - Four Phobias

Tim Allen Four Phobias Acrophobia – fear of heights A childhood rope on penny hope of bias in academia . When rock and tree are no longer lovers instead of north south east and west there is only up and down. Friendship demands sacrifice. The sacredly unfair not rare enough. Climbing monkey aped a man wearing an oxygen mask just as love was replaced by sheer wooded cliffs enclosing a mass gang-rape by frogs. On another day it was replaced by the fear of song. It was when stone and weed divided-up their children that we were issued with an altimeter instead of a compass. Enemies demand an examination of your dice although trustworthy cowardice is subject to a chance encounter with philosophy on your north face . The lad climbed the ladder of foolhardy brevity but one day he was supplanted simply supplanted yes supplanted then on a second day he was overtaken by poetic vertigo. In the wide-open of another country a tower makes a deal with a field ploughed by supplanted clo

Review - “A Democracy of Poisons” by Tim Allen

Steve Spence “A Democracy of Poisons” by Tim Allen, pub. Shearsman, 109pp Tom Raworth once said, I think in an interview quoted by Ben Watson in Removed for Further Study (The Poetry of Tom Raworth) – ‘Basically I make things I like to look at, and I write things I like to read. There’s not much room outside that. Why would you want to be bored?’ This seems like a good introduction to Tim Allen’s voluminous output and this latest chapter in his ongoing literary project is a fine example of such a sentiment. This is a substantial book of what I’m going to call prose poems, each page housing one poem, each poem comprised of 28 lines split into four paragraphs. There are a hundred numbered poems and each poem has a one-word title. Within these ‘ritualised borders’ there is a wealth of material: autobiographical details merged with storytelling; political critique; angry soundings and an abundance of wordplay within sentences which take off at tangents yet circle around loosely targeted

Review - "Birds of the Sherborne Missal" by Elizabeth Bletsoe

Steve Spence “Birds of the Sherborne Missal” by Elisabeth Bletsoe, pub Shearsman. 89pp. £12.95 This is a beautifully produced book which includes reproductions of the original artworks of the Sherborne Missal alongside texts which are based on early documentation, together with Bletsoe’s own observations and combines learning with experience to produce poetry which is very much at the high end of contemporary work. Bletsoe is curator of Sherborne Museum in her native Dorset and as has been pointed out elsewhere although she is not a prolific writer everything she produces is of a very high quality. She has, in fact, claim to be one of the best half dozen or so contemporary British poets and it’s still something of a puzzle that this hasn’t really been recognised.   The preface gives an excellent succinct introduction to the work at which point the best thing for the reader to do is to plunge into the texts themselves and experience the pleasure of writing which works on several l

Review - "Lockdown Latitudes" by Steven Waling

Charlie Baylis Lockdown Latitudes, Steven Waling (Leafe Press, 42pp, £7.50) Steven Waling’s Lockdown Latitudes is a pamphlet featuring poems composed from the time just before Covid broke out, up to the launch of the vaccine. I’m not drawn to poetry about the pandemic, partly because I mistrust the ability of poets to say anything revelatory about such a big topic and partly because Covid features so prominently in the news cycle that I’ve lost interest, developed immunity, and am considering relocating to a kinder planet. I sincerely wouldn’t mind if I never heard the word Covid again. Fortunately, however, Steven Waling’s Lockdown Latitudes are sufficiently broad and nuanced to bring a deeper understanding of the subject. Furthermore Covid is not the only topic on show, but one of many points of interest in Waling’s poetic landscape. The pamphlet opens with ‘In the bombed out church’ which talks about two sites of worship, St Mary del Quay in Liverpool and an unspecified St Luke

Review - "Yes, Today" by John Welch

Steve Spence “Yes, Today” by John Welch, pub. Oystercatcher. 13 pp It strikes me that I haven’t read much of John Welch’s poetry despite being aware of his presence for some years and I really ought to remedy this as he’s an interesting writer. The opening poem ‘Its Characters’ I read through carefully before reading the ‘explanatory’ notes at the end which relate to an artwork on which the piece is based. No matter as my interpretation suggested the complexity of cloud structures and the relation between words and the world and the way in which an internal monologue can get so close to the heart of things. These are meditative poems which are also about movement and observation – Welch is always walking somewhere in an ‘out and about’ sort of way – and they are wonderful artefacts to be enjoyed, puzzled over and contemplated.             It’s the white book of the sky           I struggle to mention,           To know one thing from another           Being constantly taugh

Clark Allison - Poem

Clark Allison The Object Time passes and I do not believe in Easy solutions this plane may be lost at Sea in the Bermuda triangle are there signs, She wore red she wore black and a Necklace and subtle earrings she was speaking but Not specifically to me hey did you get My letter alas yes but objected tried to Make amends to no avail what you want of me And I of you I tried to remain Open but I had expectations God knows whence And I couldn’t quite contain it, your hair Looks so good today your demeanour has that Prepared nuance I know we have our ups And downs reasons to choose between one approach Or another I want to walk to breathe The outside air I like to have a sense Of where I’m going the fire merely simmering Foolishly I wonder if the image meant more Than you personified, might it have been some Kind of induction I can’t deny that images Of you rebound everywhere but your image shifts Diffracts and multiplies The girls want to be With the girls you want to be special But you’r

Review - "Atoms" by Clive Gresswell

Steve Spence “Atoms” by Clive Gresswell, pub. Erbacce Press. 36 pp  £6.00 How to respond, in writing, to the multiple disasters that we are facing at the current time, that is a question. Clive Gresswell’s new chapbook does so in thirty odd pages of double-spaced text, with occasional paragraphs, by mixing it up a bit. There are repeated motifs and references, images which build, suggest and dissolve, while the title, Atoms , implies a structural stability of sorts which is nevertheless mysterious and hard to define. The answer here is to ‘go with the flow’ and Gresswell, a retired journalist who has a wonderfully creative way with words, combining precision with a sort of ‘tabloid crunchiness,’ hits the nail on the head both politically and aesthetically, insofar as it’s ever possible to do so. His dedication to the late Sean Bonney suggests a combination of the popular with the avant-garde and other poets he occasionally reminds me of for this reason are Barry MacSweeney and Tim Al

Poem by Saclaco Enomoto (trans. Eric Selland)

Saclaco Enomoto (trans. Eric Selland) Amber Solar System: Helvetica Activity (On the Beach when We Were Always Drowning) It’s not as if the wind is blowing, but this spring, the sun’s light shines on the phantom railroad tracks drawn along the wet topographic map, and in that whirl of life, of the breathing in and out of all manner of living things, the invisible subway rolls down from the rugged cliffs on the edge of the city cut by an endless river. The place where the birds of sorrow [1] nest, where the amber solar system, and our confusion spreading radially mixed with snow, dance above the waves. Shimmering pulse from the huge radio tower drawn into the mirror in the blink of an eye, a suspicious code that no one can decipher reflects off the surface of the fighter jet, and is blown away to the distant sombrero galaxy. A sequence that has lost its meaning, esquis of the gene sequence of ferns and bryophytes, all of these in a clipping of the newspaper weather column inserte

Review - “Kusudama” by Minoru Yoshioka, trans. Eric Selland

Simon Collings “Kusudama” by Minoru Yoshioka, trans. Eric Selland, Isobar Press (2021) Minoru Yoshioka was a key figure in modernist Japanese poetry in the second half of the last century, and Kusudama is perhaps his most influential book. The word kusudama , as the translator Eric Selland explains in his Afterword, refers classically to a scented cloth pouch containing herbs and flowers, but also relates to the brightly painted papier-maché balls Minoru would have known as a child, hung up by shopkeepers in the crowded local markets to attract custom. The texts of individual poems weave together personal memories, world myth, and literary references in a complex pot-pourri of imagery and allusion. Minoru draws not only on Japanese folk tales and legends, but also on Fraser’s The Golden Bough , the poet’s recollections of childhood embedded within a mythic universe. Many phrases in the text are identified as quotations from other sources, signalling the poem’s self-conscious inter