Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

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Quotidian, Paul WaringThe cover design is quite hard to describe! Top and bottom, and thinner down the right hand side, is a lime green stripe. Against this is set what looks like a piece of planking, a photograph of wood, with holds at top and bottom. In the middle of the plank, rather like a large cigarette card placed horizontally, there is an image of two tiny plastic builders in orange garb. One is holding a yellow paper clip that is as big as he is. The other is digging. The could be standing on a pavement. This picture is outlined with a white band. Centred above the picture is the pamphlet name in lime green lower case. Below the picture, centred, the author's name appears in the same size of lower case but in yellow. The publisher's logo (a large Y in a white oval shape) appears in the bottom right hand corner.

Yaffle Press, 2020   £6.50

Making everyday count

You could argue that this collection is a study in near-modernity or recent history, given the references that crop up throughout its pages. In fact it’s only when I’d finished reading that I realised the opening lines of the first poem gave me the very idea I was looking for to hang this OPOI on.

The pamphlet starts with ‘Water Stories’, the first lines of which are: ‘Most days a name that coats tongues — / a conversation crumb, ever-present on lips’. This seems apt, given that Waring has a canny knack for bringing in the familiar name, the people and places that are part of the furniture of our lives. However, these everyday names also have a sense of the magical and special about them.

There are many examples of this, most notably and most densely packed in ‘Of All The Things’, a poem that wants us to imagine the author away from the quotidian and alongside a series of departed rockers and soul singers. We meet, among others, Elvis (and a Harley Davidson), Michael Jackson, Prince and John Lennon … oh and Eleanor Rigby on Penny Lane. There’s some excellent usage of these performers’ own work in this poem, most enjoyably:

[ ... ] me on a mountain
high enough to see Marvin
and a constellation of stars
called Stevie, Diana and Aretha.

Elsewhere we meet someone reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez in ‘Man On A Train’, the magic realism of Marquez mingling with the speaker’s tinges of regret:

I ponder his life and what’s left of mine: an hour
glass of days draining to retirement, and recall
the boy whose wandering eyes saw futures far
beyond small town horizons; then wonder
whatever happened to his dreams — and the ship
that never set sail.

While this collection drapes an affectionate arm over the shoulders of all that is familiar, I get the sense that a playful (or not) noogie is never far away. It doesn’t rest or look back. It acts as more of a challenge to the quotidian, and probably to the author too.

Mat Riches