Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

afterlight press -  £4.00

 

I HAVE A SOFT SPOT for picture-poems, so I was particularly pleased to see Stephen Nelson’s pamphlet come through the door. It’s well-made, with a stiff purple cover and richly coloured and shaded fonts. The ‘faithful city’ is of course Jerusalem, and the tenement block on the front cover is an image that the author returns to in the collection:

 

RADIANCE

star sky jet trail

 

crashing stars

crashing airplanes

RADIANCE

RADIANCE

RADIANCE

RADIANCE

RADIANCE

RADIANCE

RADIANCE

RADIANCE

RADIANCE

RADIANCE

RADIANCE

RADIANCE

RADIANCE

RADIANCE

RADIANCE

RADIANCE

RADIANCE

RADIANCE

RADIANCE

RADIANCE

RADIANCE

RADIANCE

RADIANCE

RADIANCE

 

As with the above example, the poems all take place in a single ‘frame’, one page, and use sense-units no longer than single words or phrases, often repeated and/or interpolated with one another. The pamphlet is probably strongest in its arrangement of echo and opposition—for example, opposite the above poem (which, incidentally, is on page 11) is a thick fat block of text interpolating a grey “RADIANCE” with blue “SONS”, and elsewhere in the pamphlet we find a tower formed by a hole in a dense paragraph of text. Colour, italics and repetition often form pleasing aural backgrounds, like chants or prayers: “deep water dark shadows deep water dark shadows”. Personally, I loved the simple demand of the form: each new page and poem like a puzzle needing to be solved, a new method developed for drawing sense from words.

    Where the pamphlet might displease some readers is in an uncertain focus. I found myself distinguishing between two different ‘types’ of poems: the above theme of what I take to be ‘religious extremism’ and a series of appreciative poems about the natural world. This contrast doesn’t greatly detract from the overall experience but, at the same time, seems too arbitrary for a well-thought out collection. Each strain taken on its own merits, however, is strong.

    Standing back, The Faithful City is a beautiful, glittering landscape. Here: a map, a compass. Go explore.

Chris Beaton

 

The Common Reader says of The Faithful City :

The poems here are indeed visual and mostly easy on the eye. Some might say it’s not difficult to just repeat words or phrases to compose but somehow I doubt it.  I expect it has to be very cleverly done to create the desired image or design.

   The lack of titles makes it a little difficult to construct sensible comments to distinguish one poem from another for reviewing purposes but I would like to try.  I took a shine to the poem which ended “the faithful city” for the colour and the sparkle of the gems. It is one of the few poems in this collection which I found easy to read aloud. I also thought it sat there quite perfectly on the page. And I liked the one which ended “hollow” because hollow is exactly how you feel when you are

 

   “o

                    how

low

                                      low”

 

I can’t criticise the poems as poems because they didn’t make that sort of sense to me. (My comments probably wouldn’t make much sense to the writer.) The pamphlet does what it says on the cover: it shows you poems, visual poems ●

  

Orders: Individual pamphlets £4.00 (including p&p)
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