Saturday, 27 April 2019

And this morning...

And this morning I sit and savour Tom Duddy's poems yet again, their quiet resonance, their unassuming ability to reveal human truths, their delicate merging of cadence and meaning, and I yearn yet again for new poems by him that can never come, and I celebrate yet again the book in my hands that means I can still sit and savour Tom Duddy's poems...

Monday, 22 April 2019

A poem in Coming and Going

I'm delighted to report that one of my poems, Dad on the M25 after midnight, has been included in the new HappenStance anthology, Coming and Going. There'll be a more detailed post forthcoming once I get my hands on the copy that's anxiously waiting for me...

Monday, 15 April 2019

Mark Antony Owen's Subruria

Self-publication has long been a thing. Even the likes of Walt Whitman did it. However, the advent of the internet has facilitated the process even more, and a trickle has become a deluge, a deluge that often feels more therapeutic than artistic.

In the context of the above, I was especially surprised to discover Mark Antony Owen's poetry. His work displays a surefooted sense of cadence, hard-acquired technical knowledge of metre and a deft knack for narrative layering, accessibility combining with depth. It's also self-published.

Owen's made a conscious decision not to submit to journals or publishers. Instead, he's developed his own online project, titled Subruria, and it's well worth a browse.

A key issue is whether this choice is liberating, whether it enables him to fly on his own terms, finding a new audience via the freedom of the internet, or whether it's denying him editorial input, critical approval and access to readers who find their poets through more traditional means. Either way, his poetry's excellent, and I'll be following the development of Subruria with a keen eye.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

A slanted journey, Charlotte Gann's Noir

There’s a poetry that doesn’t tackle difficult subjects head-on, preferring instead to seek out angles that might lend new perspectives. It’s not cowardly for doing so. In fact, its risk-taking is greater, as it doesn’t pulse out obvious messages. Instead, it prefers a far more subtle, more powerful and longer-lasting approach to its awkward themes, while also having to accept consequent critical misinterpretation will be rife.

One such example is Charlotte Gann’s Noir (HappenStance Press, 2016). The poet’s technique throughout this collection is to invite her readers to compare and contrast, and to use these reflections as a point of departure.

First off, there’s the title itself. It evokes and invokes a niche of writing and of cinema in which what’s left unsaid is often more significant than what is actually uttered. That niche, meanwhile, just like these poems, plays on our own fears, phobias and hang-ups via other peoples’ narratives.

The above, of course, are comparisons. Nevertheless, Gann’s technique really changes gear once we home in on the contrasts. Those afore-mentioned films and books are predominately written from a male perspective. Her collection, however, often portrays events from a female point of view, as in Love Poem:

…He buried this one years ago, churchyard
down the lane. Thick ankled and drunk she was.
Now she’s back, pupils huge in the moonlight.

He licks dry lips, lamp at the window.
Stabs his nib deep in the inkwell. His  new
young wife starts, cheeks paling, eyes watering.

Pauses at her stitch, but does not speak.
He’s taught her about interrupting.

This poem seems at first to describe a typical Film Noir scene, but its exploration of the dark is actually an exploration of gender roles. This man and woman are characters in an abusive relationship. Gann subverts her readers’ expectations, bringing the piece to a close with a shocking focus on the new young wife.

Throughout her collection, Charlotte Gann never leads us down a specific empathetic path that’s clearly marked. She doesn’t put emotions on display, while always ensuring she doesn't tell us what or how to feel. Her characters are allowed to act out their own stories because the poet trusts us to pick up the baton at that point. One such example is the ending to Corners:

...It's only after his late train pulls out,
and a passing friend, concerned, touches her
back gently, that she bends double on
the pavement outside the station, and cries out. 

Noir is not a one-dimensioned homage to cinema, nor is it a relentless series of similar scenes. It’s a textured, multi-layered, slanted journey through the depths of human relationships, never savouring the dark but fearing its connotations and consequences, seeking out a chink of light. If you don’t have a copy, get one. If you have a copy, why not read it again and see whether you agree with me…?