Good stuff

Faber New Poets 4,
Jack Underwood (17pp, 5.00, Faber)

Oh this is good stuff:


                   So Weasel, it has come to this;
                   to your thighs like tall glasses of milk,
                   your biscuit hair,
                   eyes that are like any kind of deep water.
                   It has come to those coiled, snaking guts
                   we had when we were younger still -
                   those balled-up sock guts of and afternoon
                   stolen back from college.
                   It has come to the spastic, ticking urge
                   rising through skin at the simplest
                   repositioning of your weasel hips,
                   or the one in twenty-seven kisses
                   I might land about your mouth,
                   of the right temperature and diction.

                   Was I even hungry once for eating?
                   Were you ever not the end of all fast?

The reason why I included the whole poem here is simply because to do other would be wrong. For a twenty-six-year-old poet this is an incredible piece of work - and it's observations are - what's that word - kwoliti. I love this Weasel's biscuit hair that you might feel obliged to eat; and those eyes like a 'kind of deep water'. The poet does not mention the colour of the Weasel's eyes but lets your imagination make it's own mind up - if you know what I mean. And I love the line about the 'twenty seven kisses I might land about your mouth.' Obviously the personification of this weasel tells us that we are talking about life or relationships - and although the animal personification is a recurring theme in English literature, here there is a definite fresh input to this intertextuality. And the animal features in many of Jack Underwood's poems: And this is a great poem:

                  Your Horse

has arrived and is bending himself into the room,
                  refolding his legs, I knuckle his nose,
                  which reminds me of the arm of a chair.

This line ' I knuckle his nose/ which reminds me of the arm of a chair.' Is the best line of poetry I've read in a long time. This is an incredible observation: to compare the tension of texture on a horse's nose to that of doing the same to say a leather sofa is exquisite and delicate. It's these tiny microscopic details that make the great poet. And of all of Faber's new poet's, New Poets 4
is for me the best. Jack goes on to describe his horse in more detail:

                      I show him to the bathroom
                      and he is embarrassed. Next he is hoofing
                      through your photo album.

By  now a mantra has begun in my head ' two legs good four legs bad...' I never did get over Boxer's treatment in Animal Farm. How the loyal hard working Boxer -symbol of the worker, is down trodden and eventually sent to the bone factory (and in today's political climate this same horse might just be ready for another trip to the glue factory). And the simple mention of a horse anywhere in literature tends to arouse primeval sympathies. And perhaps in these poems the influence of fellow Glaswegian Edwin Morgan, with the old blind man taken to the toilet in the 'Snack Bar' can be seen.

Another exceptional poem in 'Brother Hen' (Can you detect a theme?):

   Has built a new coop
                      high as himself, on dog-proof stilts
                      is worm-rich earth. He reaches his long arm
                      through the chicken door, explores,
                      finger-tipping for egg warm shapes /

                      I tell my Brother Hen I have a system
                      for the soft-boiled, about my trick with salt
                      under the lid,

More detail:
I have a system for the soft-boiled, about my trick with the salt under the lid. I can taste that salt on the underside of the lid see it evaporating into the boiling water and doing it's magic. Detail, detail, detail I can't get enough of the magnifying glass; keep yir global warming and yir T in the park dimensions - get the glass out and see see see.

Other poems of note in this work are 'Theology' on page two, 'Wilder beast' on page fourteen - with it's 'swinging red dick' and 'Toad' on page sixteen. But to have five exceptional poems in any book of poetry is good going; and to have five in a mere seventeen pages is value for money, and I didn't mind paying for this pamphlet. We need to get used to paying more for this art form, which is still heavily subsidised; and I give thanks to the lottery and the Arts Council for their continued investment. Yi never know one day we might even make poetry sexy. I can see it just need the right marketing and Faber are doing an excellent job here. Keep it up Faber.

               James McLaughlin 2010