No 11 - 2001
Speech is Spermicide
The Brobdingnagian Times 15, Editor Unknown (96 Albert Road, Cork, Ireland, A3 sheet, 50p each).
The Unknown Editor makes a stand for 'poetry in translation' in the editorial and backs this up by publishing a translation of the Rolf Harris classic, Two Little Boys. Glen Grundle adopts a modern tonal treatment, rather than a literal one in his Blood Brothers, but the text succeeds in ways which Rolf's original didn't. Anyhow, when isn't poetry translated? BT is still cheap and still publishes an odd range of short texts, both poetry and prose.
The Burning Bush 3, Kevin Higgins (35 Glenard Crescent, Salthill, Galway, Ireland, unpaginated/A5, £5 for three).
The Burning Bush seems to be romping along in issue 3, building its platform for the new/lost generation of poets in Ireland. The poems are mostly accessible in style. Some are in Gaelic. The subject matters vary wildly from romantic themes to - hey -the urban and domestic. In some ways this reads like an echo of the UK scene a few years back (i.e. before its almost total decomposition). Almost any of these authors could end up on a subsidised tour in the UK, if they lived here, and win approval from the audiences such initiatives attract. Happily, there are some neat Freudian touches. "Hard to believe that somewhere some girl / will hear with ears touched by the wand of love / god-words rolling from his honeyed tongue / with melodies for strings and the rhythm of the stars." (Michael Durack, Words). It's uncanny really, how poets do that.
Envoi 128, Roger Elkin (44 Rudyard Road, Biddulph Moor, Stoke-on-Trent, ST8 7JN, 176pp/A5, £3 sample/£5 current issue/£15 for 3).
When I get old I will retire to somewhere like Envoi. Friendly, populous, not too demanding. Well, perhaps not. It has something in its look of the dormitory town and more likely I will not commute to Poesy. This suburb without a centre has some nice enough poems though. The crafting is variable - as you'd expect - but Envoi has a college and Margaret Perry has learned her craft well, delivering poised, clear lines on the subject of an urban fox: "I imagine him slipping through woods at the foot / of the school field, along the stream to the culvert / across the road, following a secret path…" She starts from her imagination and applies that to the mundane matter of the fox. The approach works, the poem is coaxed. She has the uncomfortable distance of a poet too, in her text, which helps. Envoi has an aspect as 'chat room' - in the editorial debate, and the letters, the articles - tho' the topic under discussion usually relates to craft issues, rather than to matters of the imagination. The poetry is mostly occasional and is occasionally good.
Global Tapestry Journal 22, Dave Cunliffe (Spring Bank, Longsight Road, Copster Green, Blackburn, BB1 9EU, 48pp/A5, £9 for 4).
Why this one has come back now it is difficult to know. The flyer with it says "Alienated from the times and studiously out of step." Out of step with what though? The question goes begging. BB Books - the mother/matrix aspect is described as involving "post-Beat poetics and counter-culture theoretics. Iconoclastic rants and anarchic psycho-cultural tracts." So, is GTJ no more than a counter culture re-enactment publication? There is yet more of the museum to walk about in? Never mind. Museums can be fun. I would recommend everyone to buy a copy of this, if only for the picture of Paul Chiten on page 31. That's not cheesy at all Dave and no you needn't feel embarrassed to have published it.
Krax 37, Andy Robson (63 Dixon Lane, Leeds, LS12 4RR, unpaginated - 72pp?/A5, £9 for three).
Krax is always a jolly read and this issue cheers with its usual 'poetry of everyday life' approach. These poetics are informed more by experience than theory, are easy going, sometimes issue oriented. The disturbing tendency to print pictures of some authors continues. The highlight for me in this issue is Alex Krysinski's cutely Freudian Love is Mightier than the Pen; the pen/penis analogy, which is sustained throughout the poem, is mightily introduced with the opening line "Guru One-Eye sits in the corner" but that turned out to be a reference to the telly.
Oasis 100-101, Ian Robinson (12 Stevenage Road, London, SW6 6ES, issue 100, 88pp/A5 £4.50 each/issue 101, 26pp/A5 £2 each/£6 for 4).
Issue 100 is a perfect bound anthology containing innovative poetry and marvellous prose. In these pages one finds most of the contemporaries one admires. Peter Riley, Drew Milne, Charles Hadfield, Lee Harwood… It is unfair to stop but absurd to go on. Most of the best of lyricality is here. And what strikes me is how many of these innovative poets are working from within aspects of the mainstream tradition of the lyric. Innovative need not mean obscure and where obscurity is an object referred to, it is not indulged in. Anyone who could enjoy John Clare should take a look here. It might even be found on the curriculum of Envoi College. Issue 100 also contains "a rough bibliographic listing of all five series of the magazine from issue 1 in November 1969 to issue 99 in November 1999", plus details of separate indexes which list authors by name. The index to issues 66 to 99 is now available.
Issue 101 is in the usual paper format and is a good post-celebratory issue. There are 17 pages of Andrew Duncan's sequence Weapons Form with Music. Mr Duncan's muse appears to wax ever more lyrical; he goes from strength to strength these days. The title of part two caught my attention: The Glasgow avant-garde redesign the Campsey Hills; Sung Chian chastises an insufficiently courteous hashed-meat vendor: "milk from a cow licentiously loosed / on the lushest of buttery meadows blushing from a midsummer flood // this is the black dot of ethical focus, it / is brought into being by truth spoken / and heard on both sides". The ethics of aesthetics, contested ground at the core of the image. Eliot Weinburger presents neat prose in his RENGA - Ten Prose Poems. The subjectively circular form of A paragraph here repeats a symbolic hummingbird image until it encloses daily life, creating a world in which the function of education is to train people into work rather than inspire them into thought? The texts concerning Angola are equally as stimulating and equally as circular. The closed circle also stands as an image of 'tradition', I'd guess, in its moribund aspect. Weinburger's texts present subtle arguments for the necessity of imagination as our strength in absurdity. 101 finishes with a poem by Ernesto Cardenal (translated by Dom Sylvester Houédard) which says the last word on the need for an ethical poetic policy, for informed debate in the practice of democracy. God is questioned thus: "it couldn't be you're getting a taste / for stories about prison-camps / tortures and sadists?" If God wrote in headlines the honest answer would probably be 'yes'. Oasis is an oasis.
Poetry Quarterly Review 16, Derrick Woolf (Coleridge Cottage, Nether Stowey, Somerset, TA5 1NQ, 24pp/A4, £2 each/£6 for 4).
Another welcome wadge of reviews from the perspective which re-represents 'contemporary culture' as 'dynamic heritage'. Each issue of PQR is as variable as an end of the pier Variety bill. On a positive note, at least they publish reviews. And some of the acts are quite good. Peter Riley writes as well as he should, projecting his review of Andrew Duncan's Pauper Estate as a commentary; brilliantly, he rushes alongside of the text to retain his points of reference. Riley demonstrates an approach to reading Duncan and he does it subtly (a case of 'show, don't tell'). Vittoria Vaughan scores highly in terms of cheese, opening her review of Pauline Stainer's Parable Island with a homily to Norman Jope (oh dear). She then has to deploy awkward prose to get out of the dead end and into the review. Shouldn't embarrassment kick in at some point? She's good at bad prose through, so it does blend in. She may not like Stainer - who can, after all, write poetry - but there was no need to resort to Norman. Was this comedy or tragedy? "She flipped about the stage like a minnow in the bottom of my dingy…" (Martina Holdroyd-Gusset, Drama Monthly).
Quid 4, Keston Sutherland (Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, CB2 1TA, 25pp/A4 single sided, £1 each).
Quid is an occasional 'barely print' publication written by and for anyone with an interest in the Cambridge poetry scene and the kinds of poetic issues produced and debated there. This isn't totally inner sanctum though (the absence of paranoia is telling) and the range of the debate in the reviews - shifting from the ontology of 'anthology' to the sticky business of constructing notions of nationality around the 'poetic' - opens up vistas all over. Creative text from Geraldine McKenzie, Tim Atkins, Leo Mellor, Drew Milne, Tim Morris, Ben Watson and Keston Sutherland. Critical text by Drew Milne, Out to Lunch, Andrea Brady and Brian Stefans. Recommended for theorophobics as an introduction into the nicer side of 'difficult' poetries. Well worth a quid.
RAW NerVZ VI:3, Dorothy Howard (67 Court Street, Aylmer (QC), J9H 4M1, Canada, 52pp/A5(ish), US$7 each/US$24 for 4).
As has been said, Haiku drive me mad. For those who like them, or who are addicted, RN will not disappoint. All kinds of Haiku in here. These poetic equivalents of the cockroach can even survive burning I'm told. If you don't like these pesky mites then steer well clear. "automatic / the way I pass through / the checkout" (Tom Clausen)... This issue came with a little renga pamphlet thing containing what might be the essence of a 4 year correspondence: Days End by Ava Kar & Betty Drevnok. There is sadness and blossom honed down. Days End is available from the RN address.
Shearsman 45-46, Tony Frazer (Lark Rise, Fore Street, Kentisbeare, Cullompton, Devon, EX15 2AD, 30pp/A5, £2 each/£6 for 4).
S45 leads with a Tom Lowenstein text, Kunuyaq, a narrative poem about a visit to Inuit country and his bizarre interactions with a large crowd of 10 year olds: "so I came, in dismay, to be their monster and curiosity, / fugitive and mascot, gadget, rugby lozenge…" There are 8 pages of narrative supported by a page of notes to explain the various Inuit, Hebrew and whatever language Pali is words. On a more musical note, Tilla Brading oscilates on page 11. She would appear to be sounding off all over, which must drive her neighbours mad. She is a veritable pipe organ, a device that may demonstrate 'harmony' or "the Sweet Track / up to the South Downs." These sonic landscapes are ok by me, but I tell you there isn't one sweet note to be had out of 'Wessex'. Try and get a tune of Hod Hill, I ask you. Also poems by Charles Hadfield, Patricia Ranzoni and the very wonderful Pēteris Cedriņš (from whom came 'speech is spermicide').
S46 contains fine prose from The Penetralium, a work-in-progress by Pēteris Cedriņš. To paraphrase from the text, this appears to be 'a long, long letter written to that distant enemy, the self.' In one respect it is an extended philosophical essay exploring paradoxes of experience and representation of ideal and mundane perspectives of relationship. "Say a man stayed with himself, not wanting to see a goddess dismantled, not wanting to await the shabby dualism of self and other, not wanting…" Some lost self encountered in its absence. "The most miraculous thing about her, said O of his lover, was leaving her." An odd, arms length relationship to the anima, an enjoyment of parenthesis. The prose is very finely writ. So too the poetry of Craig Watson: "Now we can draw a new map, one without centre or margin, and mark the four cardinal directions: "do not enter" "do not exit" "do not belong" "do not come back"." (from Good Hope). That last might be a motto for our immigration service? "from time to time paradise gets mislaid, and every representation also represents itself; the inevitable cannot be tested and even a cured patient incarnates death." Verse maxims stilted over the unreliable perspective of "the speculative grammar of ordinary meaning."
Smoke 48, Dave Calder & Dave Ward (Liver House, 96 Bold Street, Liverpool, L1 4HY, 20pp/A5, 70p each/£3 for 4).
Smoke continues to provide a low cost poetic resource, publishing poems from beginners and previously published poets. The poems often reflect upon discrete events in the life of the author. This can make the texts strangely obscure, as with Lisa Hannah's Siege. The poem appears to be about an ex-pat under pressure fleeing somewhere, though there is an absence of detail about the country. The voice speaking may or may not share some responsibility for the situation. The poem reads like something written in a totalitarian regime, where self censorship is necessary, though as it is in the past tense the evasiveness is adopted rather than required. The effect is pleasing, if frustrating and it leaves the reader in a baffled position, rather like the 'victim' in the text. "The uniform says I must fill in a blue form for my lover, / interested we have a little girl. / I ask what kind of forms they are. / He won't say." Its an odd poem, the best in this issue. Steven Taylor, in his St George of England, is more open. He is having it away with George's wife and he seems to enjoy the unfortunate moment when George turns up at home. "Neither was it distress happening / When you arrived home / Unexpectedly. // It was an orgasm, George." Poetry as Lager advert.
Terrible Work 10, Tim Allen (21 Overton Gardens, Mannamead, Plymouth, PL3 5BX, 108pp/A5, £5 each). Email email@example.com
This claims to be the final issue of Terrible Work. Tim Allen wishes us to believe that he will no longer do this thing, preferring instead to publish reviews on the internet. That and an unlikely paper publication called 'a very rare magazine upon the earth' (as if). He thinks we will fall for his pranks and spoofs like the Men of Wessex. He forgets that nonism makes all things transcendent, even this kind of nonsense. Now, we know as well as Tim A that there are problems managing review copies. The 10th Muse review copies boxes are a nightmare but such extreme measures as desperado Tim proposes are little more than the projection of domestic distress into the multimedia realm. Such displacement will only lead to more chores and thus more desperation. One editor suggested the solution was to 'dump' all but recently received review books (and people call me extreme), but this is not the answer. Dr Mintern predicts that Tim will realise his error and relaunch Terrible Work after a short while. Tim speaks of the needs of the moment (p.104) but his perspective is seen from a squinted hill - there are no 'needs' in the poetry scene (dafty), it just is. The needs he perceives are his own. The Southern Poets Counselling Service is available to help. Although he is not in the 'south' the SPCS does not recognise 'places' so Tim is within their area: they can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org. It's a free service and they need a laugh. This final issue is a quaint beast. Not only does he publish Jay Ramsay's mystical royalist poem Windsor, but he then provides the unlucky reader with a text box alongside in which he roundly slags the poem off. Why? Is this evidence of 'the project' we are asked to believe is/was behind Terrible Work? The magazine has never seemed very eclectic to me. Really, it might have been better to leave Jay Ramases wandering around Windsor Great park acting out his 'Ted Hughes Ghost possession thing' and just not publish the poem? Oddities, oddities. Peter Larkin's four lyrics from Spirit of the Trees seems favoured for a quote.
Today shadows pasture a
high beech shoulder, stain bliss at
crimson window whose green thought
saw glass feathered on leaves…
from Copper Beeches (KS)
No mention of Jay the Druid being pursued through the park by leafy men with horns, which is a boon. There is always a bright side and - even though windows don't think - Peter Larkin provides the best of it.
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Grosseteste Review
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
- Poetry Wales
- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The