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Bull, James RoomThis is an A6 sized pamphlet. There is a band of black at the top, in which the title and author's name are printed in white lower case right-justified. The rest of the jacket is a painting, in a geometric style, of a half collapsed carton of juice made up of coloured traingles and standing on a grey table. The colours are orange, green, blue, pink, grey. Quite jolly. There is a straw sticking of the top. The wall behind is pale orange.

The Red Ceilings Press, £6.00

The fun of dialogue in poetry

This is a blessedly different pamphlet: physically, it’s A6, like a little notebook you can flick through – no page numbers, no punctuation: just the words.

And the words are, often, a conversation.

I adore single lines of dialogue embedded in poems. We know where we are: in between two people. And the lines of dialogue that drip through Bull are brilliantly human. Ironically.

Arguably the whole pamphlet is in dialogue, in sense even if it’s not a direct interaction, it’s an interaction with self. ‘When I was a young man I would often wait at bus / stops in the rain for no particular reason’, the first piece (‘Bull’) ruminates. And the second is entitled ‘I: ninety percent of what you say’:

Where is this? Bull asked
A place
I have invented I’m
pretty pleased with it
Bull pointed
a splayed black hoof What’s
that?
Guttering I said

How brilliantly natural this dialogue is – and so like a Gary Larson cartoon, it makes me HAPPY!

Bull is often critical: ‘Hasn’t anyone ever told you / show don’t tell?’ one piece closes. And another sets out his store:

Ninety percent of what you say
is worthless
Ten percent of what you say
has been said before One hundred
percent
of what you say
fails to surprise me
That’s a little harsh I said

Isn’t this wonderful? A dialogue with self? A conversation between intimates? They talk about strange abstract things as though they were concrete – where a guest might sit. They bicker.

I can’t win I said
It’s not about winning
he countered
It’s about etiquette

Tiny details bring the whole context to life:

I stuck a spoon in my brûlée
Bull shifted in his seat
I can’t
get comfy he complained

I love how, in so few words, this dialogue – and through it, relationship – is brought to life. It’s richnesses. And its limitations:

I meant
what I really meant
to say was that
But
he cut me off
like
always

Charlotte Gann