I really enjoyed Lizzy Dening's Nasty Little Intro last year, and so I was delighted to get my hands on another mini-pamphlet from the series - this time #5 - by Tristram Fane Saunders.
Fane Saunders renders the reviewer susceptible to all sorts of cliché and hyperbole: any pamphlet by a nineteen-year-old Cambridge undergraduate tempts the use of terms such as "precocious", "exciting new talent", "one to watch", etc, etc. What's more, in this case the poetry itself very much does warrant close attention.
These are poems that simultaneously connect with the everyday yet also demand knowledge of popular and literary allusion. PG Tips appear alongside John Betjeman, The Meaning of Liff and John Cooper Clarke. As indicated by the invocation of that last name, it's also verse that lends itself to performance, especially in the case of pieces such as Silent Disco:
"come dance with me
among the moshing
tatters of mankind
the broken folk
the speechless and the blind..."
This might come over as slightly facile on the page, but the aural impact is clear.
Nevertheless, it would be unfair to classify Fane Saunders so readily. As the chapbook's title states, it's an "intro", and thus shows the poet exploring varying facets of his work. In other poems he shows he can turn a phrase well, judge its use within the context of a poem, and grab a reader's attention. One such example occurs in the opening lines of Farnham (which just happens to be my home town!) :
"The days are melting in together,
taking you with them. Not like broken
ice in a wineglass, with late summer
sweating its edges; more like sodden
tissues in mounds..."
I'll be following Tristram Fane Saunders' poetic development with great interest. Will he definitively go down the performance route? Will his written poetry gain more and more texture? How will he wear the growing erudition that he's revelling in just now? The exciting thing is that he can't even know that himself!
It is rare indeed nowadays to encounter a poetry collection which exudes the traditional values of the art form. This is such a book: it displays an effort...