The Magic Phlute, Tony Kitt

SurVision Books, 2019    £6.99

Twinkling mischief

The poems in this collection play with language at breakneck speed. The first stanza of the opening poem ‘Phlutissimo’ sets the tone:

The magic phlute is made from unihorn corn
It has a piercing ability, and splits
sounds from non-sounds

The absence of any full-stops throughout the collection adds to the speed and playfulness. Rhymes, puns, and sly contemporary references trip over each other.

The author acknowledges that ‘some of the characters are loosely based on the personages of Mozart’s opera’, The Magic Flute, but there is a wider debt, an experiment with language akin to the madcap quality of the opera.

I have seen The Magic Flute only once, but I came away charmed, entertained, moved, and completely bemused. I couldn’t explain the plot and I felt there were jokes and allusions that I lacked the insight to understand. But I would gladly go back for more.

I feel the same way about Tony Kitt’s pamphlet, which I have read several times, with increasing admiration. How could you not delight in descriptive inventions like ‘bureaucrustracean’ or ‘vertebraeindifferent’? Then again, words that I thought might be inventions, like ‘endurantist’ and ‘perdurantist’ are actually philosophical concepts, and Kitt is agile in his play with logic and philosophy as well.

There is even a delightful, doomed romance in ‘Tamino, Panino and Poetry’, which is perhaps my favourite poem and had me laughing out loud. In this segment the death of infatuation is beautifully rendered:

He writes like a king, says Panina
Tamino’s poems are the finest ever written

Next month she appears on the Blowing into the Phlute show
Tamino is a fine poet, she says, but there are
other poets, as well

In three months’ time, she says to the three ladies
of the public service:
Tamino has a number of good poems

I won’t spoil the punch line, but buy the pamphlet and you’ll find more than a number of good poems! To quote from ‘Phlutissimo’, this is a sequence full of ‘twinkling mischief’.

Heidi Beck