Some Ending — Ben Norris
Verve Poetry Press, 2019 £7.50
The very model of a modern major generalisation
If you’re reading this OPOI any time after about 2021, then some of what I am about to say may sound archaic. However, one of many things that stand out in this pamphlet is the Norris’ use of the modern world.
It’s essentially a collection grounded very much in the here and now through a range of subjects. For example, the book opens with a reference to R.E.M’s, ‘Nightswimming’ – although as with almost every poem in the collection the title’s in lower case.
From there on, the list of modern life covers everything from the current referendum (in ‘the only ethnic minority in boston lincolnshire’ where we are told ‘I do not know how you voted in the referendum and I am not going to / ask’), a sneaky reference to the film Titanic (in, er, ‘titanic’) and a host of more mundane examples. These include (over the course of a few different poems) ‘sainsburys basics’, ‘lynx africa’, ‘dashboard cam / on channel 5’, ‘oyster card’ and ‘emojis’. It’s interesting that the continuous use of the lower case extends to place names, counties, countries and brand names.
One of the ultimate symbols of modernity, the mobile phone, is another constant feature of this collection. We see it in ‘sister’, where the poet tells us and/or her ‘I never know whether to put kisses / at the end of our texts’, once again in ‘fox’ where ‘you are seven megapixels / held in the palm of my hand’, and a third time in ‘signal’ where ‘I’ve taken a week away from you / put down my phone and so your body’.
That last quotation seems to nail the theme for the whole collection: the fact that despite the familiarising use of brands and the everyday, the people that feature in these pages are quite distant and separate. Is that a trait of modern life we just have to accept? Will it have changed by the time you’re reading this in 2021?