Giles Turnbull’s pamphlet, Dressing Up (Cinnamon Press, 2017), is set apart by the vivid texturing and layering of its imagery and narrative drive.
Early on in the poems, colour and tone often play a prominent role, as in the following examples:
“Light seeps in…”
“…the colour of sunburn…”
“…spinning in dark and light…”
“…the colour of traffic lights…”
Combined with this light visual touch, apparently simple, clear-cut narratives acquire multiple potential meanings and ramifications in Turnbull’s poetry. Ambivalent and ambiguous counterpoints provide the key to depth. Here are a couple of terrific endings to illustrate this point:
beginning with the windings of yesterday’s clocks.”
“…so much coming from apparent failure.”
And now on to a pivotal point when reading this pamphlet, one that takes me back to an old chestnut: the intrinsic or extrinsic approach to a text. I’ve always viewed such a separation as a waste of time, as an academic exercise, and this case is no exception.
What do I mean by the above? Well, this incredibly visual verse was written by a person who has gone blind. Can we enjoy and value it without knowing that fact? Of course. Is our appreciation enriching by the knowledge? Of course. Is it warped? Of course not, so long as we ensure any absurd preconceptions are banished.
While I really enjoyed Giles Turnbull’s pamphlet, I also like reading his blog and his interviews (such as this one with Sabotage) almost as much. In Dressing Up, many of his experiences as a poet who has lost his sight remain implicit and in the background, while they come to the fore in those afore-mentioned prose features.
Perhaps Turnbull’s next challenge is to turn his terrific anecdotes into poetry. I’d love to read a poem about his magic glasses…!