Thursday, 19 January 2012

Gerry Cambridge's Notes for Lighting a Fire

Bearing in mind that Gerry Cambridge's Notes for Lighting a Fire has come out with HappenStance, who also publish my pamphlet, Inventing Truth, I suppose I must be biased when saying it's excellent. For that reason, I don't feel I can credibly write a full-blown review of it as such.

However, I will say I'm thoroughly enjoying it. Only HappenStance's second full collection, Notes for Lighting a Fire is first-off a gorgeous object to hold. There are top-notch production values involved in this hardback book, plus an elegant design. As would be expected, typsetting and proofreading are first rate.

The poetry itself really hits the mark for this reader: accessible yet with demanding resonances, Cambridge's craft is not obtrusive. His effects creep up, moving you imperceptibly at first, gathering strength and then hitting home. In that sense, the poems in this book very much lend themselves to the slow-burning, cumulative force of a full collection.

Nature is a key focus for Cambridge, yet it doesn't exist as some stand-alone concept to be revered. Instead, it plays a role in everyday lives, contextualised by other situations as in "Gorse in Middle Age", in which the smells and memories of a hillside of gorse are brought back to life for the narrator by the scent of the coconut butter that his partner puts on before bed.

In linguistic terms, meanwhile, Cambridge is playful in his use of register yet also coherent - every choice of word is deliberate, as in the following example from "Christmas Oranges":

"... the shades of pips
in the cool translucence -
the thrawn wee buggers, the embryos

lavish with thought of perpetual groves".

There's a juxtaposition of Scots, colloquial language, delicate physical description and abtract nouns here, all working in unison to create a terrific effect.

I could quote umpteen wonderful poems, but that would end up like a spoiler for a film. What's more, I started the post with a disclaimer that this wouldn't be an actual review,so why not get hold of a copy of Gerry Cambridge's Notes for Lighting a Fire and let the story unfold for yourself? You won't regret it.

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