Yellow patterned cover with black writingLights, Camera, Stav Poleg

Eyewear Publishing, 201 , £6.00

One art seen through another

Art about art is not a new idea. But save your ‘oh not more poetry about poetry’ sighs – this pamphlet is poetry about film, and theatre, and paintings. And save your ‘writing about music is like dancing about architecture’ – why ever not dance? It seems to me a splendid idea to refract one art’s storytelling through another, to see if we can see more that way.

Right from the title, that second comma teases us with the space afterwards, where we all know the word ‘action’ would be, were we on a film set. Then we’re welcomed in by the stage-direction-like first poem, ‘The River’, which (in terms of layout) is fully justified, though has not come out that way on this web page:

So the sun’s sensational yellow. The river, acrylic
sea-green. There’s a girl on a train as if she’s
featured on-screen. Lips, bicycle-red. Sunglasses,
cerulean ink. Hair, Da Vinci’s flying machine.

I love how this quietly shows what poetry can do that film can’t – every reader will see their own interpretation of that hair.

‘The City’ is a head-spinning sestina. A palimpsest of the films and paintings and songs that we use to make sense of the world are crammed in between the repeating words, building up like all the lives that have shaped the city: ‘Think Streetcar goes Gatsby’, ‘Think MOMA but rough’, ‘The phone rings with a Moon River cover’. The poem relies on shared cultural references – this is a city of the western world in the early twenty-first century. I can see how that could exclude some readers, but I think it’s an interesting take on the sort of poetry that references the canon of literature.

A real highlight for me is ‘Listen, you have to read in a foreign language’ (available online here), on how art is a collusion between artist and reader/audience, how we’re all making it up as we go along and artworks are tools for us to use to do that:

                Just don’t
treat a language as if it’s a precious
vase that could break
any second. It is a precious vase. It breaks
while we’re talking – that’s why we fall for it and
with it

Ramona Herdman