Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

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I notice biographical paragraphs about the poets on your website are restrained and un-blurby. No critically acclaimed, eagerly awaited, uniquely compelling, engagingly adroit, technically accomplished, heart-stoppingly emotive, astonishingly luminous writers so far – though they sound interesting and you have allowed a couple of review quotes to creep in. Is the restrained tone deliberate policy?

I could go on about blurb or what Dennis O’Driscoll called ‘blurbonic plague’. I won’t. Suffice it to say, I get really turned off by much of the back cover hype you see around. It’s my policy to do justice to the work and the poet without straying into the realm of the meaningless. I want people to believe what’s written on the cover.

What about a sample poem or two? Might be nice . . .

It seems invidious to pick out one or two poems from the list. There are samples of everyone’s poems on the website. I will, however, take this opportunity to be shameless and use one of my own pieces from the first pamphlet. I choose this because it refers to an aspect of the practical business of production – proof-reading. It seems, no matter how hard I use all the available hi-tech facilities like spellcheck etc, there’s always a glitch I miss and only finally notice when the whole print run is back from the printer. I have to regard it as being like the deliberate aberration in an oriental rug which gives it specific authenticity, proof it’s the real thing (and hope the poets are forgiving).

Proof Reading

I can’t see the page for the lines,
the words for the spaces between;
stops and colons like spider droppings;
commas and parentheses just husks
scattered here and there; meaning
hyphenated several pages back.

Marks with a red pen orchestrate
a sort of counterpoint. No – more like
an off-key melody an interloper in the choir
insists on singing. I can hear breathing
but no rhythm, a voice but no language,
inflexions without sense.

When you look through the text’s mirror
what indeed you find is the red queen.
She’s shouting at the top of her voice of course
but it comes out as a drone like a million bees
descending on the garden of possibilities.
The white rabbit pops up like an apostrophe.

I can’t see the wood for the water,
the trees for the signs, the road for the river
he shouts. And you can hear that.

And you think of a blank sheet, crisp-edged,
spectrum white. Poised for a red tick,
your nerve goes. You turn the page.