Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Review: In and Out of the Dark Wood, by Jeremy Page

Jeremy Page is both an editor and a poet. This combination has served him well in his excellent new pamphlet, In and Out of the Dark Wood, recently published by Happenstance Press.

He pulls off a delicate trick: there are few fireworks in the pamphlet, an absence of obvious devices, wordplay or heavy musical patterning, yet this collection is far from being chopped-up prose. In fact, it's packed with terrific poetry.

Page builds an unobtrusive music that's intrinsically married to his semantics. Language grafts here, enabling us first to identify with scenarios and then to transform them into a new creative process in the context of our own lives. All this sounds slightly pompous and theoretical, but few poets achieve time and time again as he does in this book...

Being here

Here, on the garden bench in high summer
we can agree it's over while the kids indoors,
oblivious, carry on and bicker and half watch TV;
we can agree that, no, we never expected
things would turn out like this, and pour ourselves
another glass of wine; agree that this is
somewhere that we never meant to be,
that in high summer it's a cold and godless place.

This poem displays an extraordinary understandings of how effects are obtained. The melody of everyday language is heightened by subtle repetition, while the killer word is "somewhere" at the start of the penultimate line. It doesn't need to shout its status as a metaphor from the poetic rafters. Instead, Page allows its ramifications to creep up on us, us just as they did on the participants in the scene.

In and Out of the Dark Wood might seem an intensely sad collection in much of its subject matter: the slip of generations, the loss of memory and the aftermath of divorce. Nevertheless, it's also a celebration of Page's generosity of sentiment. Experiences and observations are shared with such an acute and playful eye, the editor-poet revelling in life even when pain abounds.

I thoroughly recommend In and Out of the Dark Wood, one of the most understated yet outstanding pamphlets to have been published so far this year. Jeremy Page writes poetry that's been carved from experience.

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