Rogues and Roses: Poems on love affairs, various
Sampson Low, Potcake Chapbooks, 2018 £2.60 + postage
A return to form
Far too many people live in fear of poetry, casting it off as pretentious and evading comprehension. They should read this chapbook of 13 poems by 12 poets. Under the strapline ‘Form in Formless Times’ this poetry abides by the forsaken rules of meter and form. It scans. Heck, it even rhymes.
Here we see resurrected the sonnet, the limerick, the villanelle. The poets adopt these forms to better emphasise a cautionary tale or deliver a punch line to full effect.
The chapbook opens with Brian Allgar’s ‘The Kitchen Lesson’, whose extended metaphor is delightfully naughty:
a carpaccio of tender, well-oiled rump
While I let the main course simmer till the breasts were nicely plump.
Then the moment came to lay the scrumptious dish upon the table,
So I grabbed the bird, and spread the legs as fast as I was able.
The piece begins with two lines of prologue followed by six rhyming couplets as the pace hastens. The final shock of his adultery and moral of the tale is delivered as the poem climaxes with a rhyming couplet:
Let me recommend this lesson that will simplify your life:
If you’re dancing in the kitchen, just be sure it’s with your wife.
In adhering to a set format, Allgar has created a poem that’s full of comedy. Had he attempted this in free verse, the impact would be lost.
Ann Drysdale also uses a strict rhyme scheme in ‘And if it rains, a closed car at four’:
But if it rains, we’ll have to take the Rover
And park it round behind the Little Chef.
By four the lunchtime rush will be over;
And we’ll occlude the windows with our breath.
The rhythmic bounce is fitting in describing both the sex and the regularity of their affair:
Then I shall drive us back to Muswell Hill […]
And whistle as you pedal home to Lil.
Far from being forced or twee, this poetry is elegantly strung, evocative and memorable. It serves as a brilliant reminder of what can be achieved when one sticks to the rules of poetry, if not the rules of love.