Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

There Are Twelve Sides to Every Circle, Tim MurphyThis is a photo of the pamphlet on a brown surface, maybe a desk. It is pale cream in colour. The text on it is all dark pink and left justified. At the very top the title, in lower case with each word except 'to' beginning with a capital: There Are Twelves Sides to Every Circle. Below this, left justified, with author's name, also lower case but slightly smaller. In the bottom third, left justified there are the first eight lines from one of the poems. They begin 'Tibetan pomegranates, / Viennese plums from Antwerp, / Pink freesia and pear gardenia' and so on.

If a Leaf Falls Press, 2021    £5.00

Organised desire’

The phrase ‘organised desire’ — from the last line of Tim Murphy’s dizzingly playful pamphlet — points to the structure holding these twelve poems together. Each one is fourteen lines and each takes one of the twelve signs of the Zodiac for its title. So far, so organised.

The poems are not structured as sonnets but are list poems of richly fantastical ingredients. ‘I. Virgo’, the first in the sequence, begins:

Negative violet and mutable raspberry,
Feminine dill and fennel,
Valerian earth and juniper woodbine.
Chamomile from Costa Rica

An underlying pattern emerges in the second poem, ‘II. Libra’., which opens:

Positive roses and cardinal grapes,
Masculine sapphire and jade,
Orchid air and lizard cloves,
Copper from the South Pacific

By the start of the third poem this pattern has become enjoyably fixed. Negative/Positive are alternating as opening words, while Feminine/Masculine start the second lines.

Just as I’m congratulating myself on being observant, I notice another regularity: in the third lines we have ‘earth’, then ‘air’ — followed in subsequent poems, of course, by ‘fire’ and ‘water’. At the start of the fifth poem we’re back with ‘earth’, when the sequence starts again.

Each of the fourth lines is a substance — chamomile, copper etc — from a named place. The same pattern is there in the seventh lines, then the eleventh line and also the thirteenth. Some of my favourites are ‘Australian souvenirs from Avignon’ and ‘Greek bagatelles from Milwaukee’, although ‘Aniseed parrots from Plymouth’ is near the top of the list.

Now I spot a pattern in the tenth lines: each begins with a human attribute. (This is an obsessive’s heaven!)

But the final line of each poem is different. It contains not a magically impossible item, but always something abstract — for example ‘And some time alone every single minute’ or ‘And an escape plan always at the ready.’

Which brings me to the last line in the whole pamphlet — ‘And always the organised desire dialectic.’ Not being familiar with this term I turn to Google — the ultimate in organisation — where a whole new world of Lacan and the Freudian unconscious waits to be explored.

This may well prove as intriguing a circle as Murphy’s title suggests.

D A Prince