Pluckin' Amazin! (Apparently)

The Breakfast Machine, Helen Ivory (62pp, 7.95, Bloodaxe)
Apparently, Matthew Caley (79pp, 8.95, Bloodaxe)


The fly leaf inscription of Helen Ivory's book reads:

    To the chickens, and to Martin, always.

Now I don't know about you but when someone puts an inscription like this at the beginning of a poetry book I kinda know what I'm going to get.

And sure enough I and the plucking chickens get it:

     The Tooth Mouse

     All the teeth
     bought by the Tooth Mouse
     are piled up in an out-of-town

     They are gnashing
     and grinding
     and want to return
     to the mouths of sleeping children

     It is said that they are whiter
     than bone, cleaner
     than melt-water, more innocent
     than the children themselves...

I'm wondering if the chicken's are ready for this.

Read on I say, skipping to page 19:


     Your black cat has been gone for days         (eating the chickens no doubt)
     He returns to you now
     with sooty paws...

No that's right 'sooty paws'

And after 'sooty paws' we get to the meat - or to the chickens - for whom the book was written - and I'm nodding like Churchill over the speed bumps:

Meanwhile, in 'Making Rain', on page 29:

It's always summertime in the cellar
     and the chickens are chattering softly          
     to each other about the impossibility
     of this, and other things...

It takes a certain type of individual to be able to empathise with chickens - you know get inside their head man. I'm thinking I need to get into this McChickiny world.

Read on I say, jumpng to page 54:


     Look at you, darling puppet
     all snug in your box -
     it's high time you kicked up your heels
     now the nights are drawn in...

     I'll send you out like a bad mother,
     with the path impossibly narrow
     and the trees bound to snag your strings
     best to ignore those anonymous howls....

Pluckin amazin !

After poem three of Matthew Caley's Apparently, a real depression began to sweep over me. Perhaps it's the inhalation of too much volcanic dust living so near Iceland but I can't do this any more. It's obvious that the poetry editors at Bloodaxe know little about poetry - and you could say this for most of the mainstream poetry publishers at the moment. With a whole eruption of incredible talent about it is a mystery to me why mediocrity is preferred to craft and invention. All I seem to see is pop music poetry that is awful. Like a painting that needs a highlight here and there - it's close but not finished. There has to be more than sincerity; there has to be craft gleaned out of reading and dissection and dare I say being hard on yourself. To take poetry to where it needs to be you need to focus and look hard at the subject. Just using a gimmick like starting every poem with the word apparently isn't new or effective - and after fifty apparently's the impact is one of revulsion if not hatred.

It's obvious to me that tastes are different and this is not for me. I'm taking the Bloodaxe to the chickens and the poems.

     James McLaughlin 2010