Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Lake Effect, Tim CravenThe cover is pale orangey brown and features in the middle  'in Engelshut' by Paul Klee: hard to describe this. Shapes outlined in dark blue or red, three bits of which resemble heads (dots for eyes) and two legs at the bottom. The shape at the bag has side bits that look like wings. At the top of the pamphlet there is a review quote praising the contents in small dark blue lower case. At the bottom there is the pamphlet title, all lower case in much larger lower case italics, right justified. The author's name is below it, left justified in blue. The L of lake effect in the title, therefore, starts just above the N of 'craven'.

Tapsalteerie, 2019    £5.00

When the reader feels it’s personal

Hey — this is a good poet, a debut worth noticing. The title poem ‘Ode to Lake Effect’ illustrates that nicely, with its ‘brilliance / of hands in bobble hats’ and ‘erasures of the beautiful // by the beautiful, versions of water, / versions of cold folded like A4 card’.

And I won’t forget the one about the day he snagged his sister’s eye with a fishing fly (‘Stormfront’).

But most of all I will remember the one about me.

He didn’t mean it to be about me, of course. I expect (though I don’t know) he is twenty-something, and to him people in their sixties are distant and old as I once thought my father was when he died at 61.

But the poem in which he gets personal, ‘Neuroanatomy Practical’, is good. Precision of phrasing (for example, ‘the fissure of a temporal lobe’) allows me to visualise vividly how the poet takes a skull in his hand and examines it. It’s a skull whose lobes were certainly temporal, since the inhabitant is long away.

But no, she isn’t, Tim Craven. She is reading your poem:

When she (sixty-six, Caucasian, lymphoma)
donated it to science, was this the promised
afterlife? You consider biting into it
as you would a peach — and, were it not
for the bleach-like stench of toxic preservative,
you might.

Craven doesn’t know my age (sixty-six) or that I am Caucasian and female. He doesn't know I share other details with the dead woman too. Like her, I have some ‘self-taught Italian’, ‘tomato soup recipes’ and take ukulele (not oboe) ‘lessons’.

The poet intends me to identify with the speaking voice, the ‘you’. But I identify with the skull.

Needless to say, most readers won’t experience the poem like this. For them, this lady will be distant and different, dead of a cancer they don’t have, decades older.

But sometimes in poems there is a detail you relate to uncomfortably closely. Should poets bear this in mind when being beautifully precise? The only thing I don’t have yet is lymphoma — so far as I know.

Indeed, I hope I don’t. Not least because Tim Craven writes rather too well. I don’t like the idea of his thumb ... fidgeting over my fissures.

Helena Nelson