Corrupted Memories by Alan Corkish
[186pp, unpriced, Paula Brown Publishing]
Lizard Reality by Ronnie Goodyer
[148pp, £7.99, bluechrome]
Familiar Territory by Rupert M Loydell
[60pp, £6.99, bluechrome]

A warning is necessary before reading Alan Corkish, elected ‘The People’s Poet’ for 2003 (I don’t remember that poll). If you like mixed print, no punctuation, fractured lines & layout, and i for I then Alan’s your man. He has strong opinions too.

So I have a problem. Many poets have strong opinions; Shelley on Castlereagh, for example. But opinions can get in the way of appreciation. Corkish writes about Arnhem as ‘some vain war lord’s / incompetent bid for glory’, and one breaks off to mutter ‘it wasn’t: it was a plan that could have ended the War earlier.’ And having seen smashed faces, I don’t warm to a line about ‘smashing the face of a youthful copper’ even in support of Daddy Royle.

Morever, I’m one of those who find poems with words and letters all over the place a turn-off. Others must love them, Corkish’s publisher for one (printing and proofreading must have been a nightmare).

Turned off, I closed the book, read the cover and saw that Corkish’s love poetry had the after-taste of good wine. I thought, ‘Here’s the opportunity for a Petty-minded joke: I’ll find this wine rather corkish’. But I didn’t. The quality of many of the love poems is high and ‘Being Apart’ is outstanding. There are also excellent poems elsewhere, for example ‘Ramsey South beach’ and ‘Birkenhead Lower Park’.

What worries me is that many people may glance at this book and put it aside, not liking the actual look of many poems. As a reviewer I read it all and discovered its good things. I hope others will persevere and do so too.

Ronnie Goodyer puts his all into Lizard Reality: long poems, short poems, mini poems, funny poems – and some sharp illustrations. There is even a poem with reverse rhyme and poems with unusual line patterns (but not in the Corkish league). All this mixture makes for an entertaining and impressive read. The collection begins with a lament for his dead dog. I’m not an enthusiast for pet poems, but this one is excellent and I licked my lips in anticipation of what was to come. I was right to lick them because the poems that came have what I like, fresh language giving power to the poem, as in ‘On Gwynter Beach’:

         Winter winds blast the breakers five lines deep
         and whip the top foam to spiral deaths.

He keeps the quality up too, although I did find the final section, ‘A View From There’, not quite so effective as its predecessors. The mini poems and the jokes vary. Try this one:

         was that
         orphan I
         saw you with last
         night? That was no orphan, that was my waif.

I know, I know. But treat it as a sorbet between the serious courses. It keeps one reading, and Goodyer deserves all the reading he can get.
Lizard Reality is said to show the effect of a year of disappointment, but Goodyer need not be disappointed at the poetic result of that year.

Rupert Loydell’s
Familiar Territory is light. I mean the volume, not the poems. Most of which are not light at all. You need to read every one with care, giving it your full attention, following the logic while appreciating the precise choice of words and the effective emphases of the rhythms and lines. The punctuation is not only correct, it helps the reader (eat your heart out, Corkish). There are some jokes (I think, hope) such as ‘Lexicon’ and ‘Repertoire’ which ease one through to what can be quite demanding poems. It is not easy to quote from these poems because each one is a carefully constructed, interlocking whole. To extract would be to diminish. And Loydell’s individual words are not the sparkling kind: he’s a good fino, not champagne. Among these cool, dry poems I particularly liked ‘Stream’, ‘Temperate’ and ‘Replay’, and the late Ken Smith would, I am sure, have appreciated ‘Divinity’, a poem in his memory.

At the end of the collection comes the page ‘Sources’. My mind sped back to when I first read the Notes to T.S. Eliot’s
The Waste Land. Those notes didn’t help me to understand that poem; nor do ‘Sources’ help in the understanding of Familiar Territory. They can’t be intended to and it doesn’t matter: the poems stand on their own feet and stanzas, and they will certainly run.

I must make a final comment. If anyone thinks they can generalise about early twenty-first century poetry, they should read these three collection. They won’t generalise any more.

         © W.H. Petty 2004