Sunday, 21 October 2018

Opening the floodgates, S.A. Leavesley's How to Grow Matches

When reviewing, it’s usually wise to avoid invoking a metaphor or an image that might draw attention away from the poet and towards the critic. Any such flashiness invites accusations of selfishness and flashiness, because a review should be about the book in question, not about the reviewer.

However, there are a few cases where an exception is justified, where a metaphor can enlighten and illustrate. S.A. Leavesley’s pamphlet, How to Grow Matches (Against the Grain Poetry Press, 2018), is a good example: each piece finds her opening the floodgates at a precise moment, her delicately controlled releases of anger bringing about effects many miles downstream.

One such instance occurs in the closing stanza to Her Cumuli Collector:

“…The day he left, not a single wisp of white
or grey against the bright blue sky.
But it rained non-stop inside her: heavy,
pounding – the rain of dark angels.”

These lines demonstrate Leavesley’s knowledge of language’s nuts and bolts, of how to subvert them to effect, as she removes the main verb from her first sentence, thus unsettling the reader, before homing in on her clashing, conflicting final image. Moreover, her line break between “heavy” and “pounding” exacerbates that very sensation.

How to Grow Matches uses the challenging of linguistic convention to ramp up its implicit conflicts, as in the final lines of Bowl of oranges: a still life

“…She pinches her mouth closed,
tightens her heart muscle to a fist,
hands her husband a fresh orange.”

The pivotal word here is “closed”. It’s unexpected and casts a new, more powerful light on the verb that precedes it.

Anger often implies and involves the loss of control, but S.A. Leavesley shows that its impact is actually far greater when used with a deft touch. How to Grow Matches is an excellent pamphlet from a new press that deserves to find a spot at the top table of U.K. poetry pamphlet publishing. I’ll be keeping a close eye on its development.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Tickets for Poetry in Aldeburgh

With little more than three weeks to go, tickets for Poetry in Aldeburgh are selling fast. A quick look at their website (see here) tells you that several of the workshops have already sold out, although seats are still available for all the readings.

As for my own event, it's titled "Poetry of Food and Cooking", and will take place in the Peter Pears Gallery on Sunday 4th November at 1 p.m.. Helena Nelson will be introducing Alison Brackenbury, Rosie Sheppard and myself, and there's also sure to be a drop of free Spanish wine on show, maybe even from deepest Extremadura.

The build-up to the festival is an exciting time: I've already got tickets for several events apart from mine, and I'm now weighing up whether to fill up my timetable even more or leave some gaps to relish the people and place as well as the poetry itself...