Corrupted Memories by Alan Corkish
[186pp, unpriced, Paula Brown Publishing]
Lizard Reality by Ronnie
[148pp, £7.99, bluechrome]
Familiar Territory by Rupert M
[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’:
winds blast the breakers five lines deep
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:
you with last
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