What You See is What You Get


Smartarse
, ed. Rupert Loydell (139pp, 9.00, The Knives Forks and Spoons Press)

Smartarse is my kind of poetry - and at 139 pages for 9.00 is pretty good value, showcasing sixteen or so poets. I love the cover of the book which is a work of art in itself produced by Jock Mc Fadyen.

Can I direct the reader to Bobby Parker on page 32:

     3.06 AM

     The sound of girls walking home
     shouting from the clubs keeps my
     left eye wedged between the blinds.
     They are so full of temporary happiness
     and temporary abandon  and temporary
     ignorance that I want to run out there

    they will be gone and I will just be another
    half- naked nutcase dancing for love
    under the marmalade streetlamps.

I love that 'marmalade streetlamp'. This poem is a typical example of the easy style of this book - which is very approachable and unaffected by degree or nuance. Simplistic it is not as any confessional existentialism is never that easy. This is a relaxed approach - a self-assured 'nice' dialogue of modernism and anti-mainstream bollocks so prevalent today.

Another good poem is 'Bachelor' on page 66 by Martin Mooney:

    In a bedsit or
    studio flat
    the newsagents
    the man to blame
    for the flight
    of the sparrow

    with twenty others
    and seals
    with feathers
    and chewed up pages
    from the personal
    columns
    of the local paper.

Smartarse
is parked with humour, parody, and vernacular. It is a mixture of all things postmodern - whatever postmodern means these days. For as soon as it's modern then it's postmodern, then when postmodern it's old hat. There is a playfulness and below the surface something a bit more real and disturbing, even sinister. This is poetry of reflected place; of confession and pain. A black humour born of the inner city and a rejection of societies norms. That these writers think for themselves and write for themselves - that sheep they are not. We don't have the celeb here or well-ordered market gloss of the big boys. What you see is what you get.

The book really is full of good poetry that you can come alongside and enjoy. There is a freedom of form and style which leans on confidence and originality; and its feet are in 2011 and not 1707 much to my refreshment. And I would recommend this book to the reader.

I'll finish with another small excerpt on page 26 by David Briggs

    My Rival's Poems

   
have begun to appear
    as illustrated posters on municipal buses,
    are on the curriculum,
    are widely anthologised

    I've noticed my rival steals phrasing
    and imagery from my poems,
    but with such deviant subtlety
    that an accusation of plagiarism
    would no doubt be greeted by howls of derision.

I hope he doesn't mean me.

    James McLaughlin 2011