Hearing Eye, 2008 £3.00
A strikingly eclectic collection, though one in which the poems and prose are never less than well-written and crafted, even if sometimes artistically unsatisfying. Hirschhorn is no dilettante though. A second reading confirmed my sense of his delight in his writing, his depth, power and culture. There’s wit, as well, as in the excellent sonnet ‘On Not Speaking Ill of the Dead’:
When at last I died she dressed me in my best:
Cutaway coat, four in hand, Eton collar.
As I once vexed her, now she won’t let me rest,
And pops me upright in the old front parlour.
The battle of the sexes is, in fact, the one constant throughout the book, and it is here that the wit can get a little barbed, as in ‘When I Married Her’, a tale of kidnap and incarceration, that left me a little uncomfortable, and which, in my view, would have been bettered rendered in prose.
Inevitably, in the riot of forms and subject, there are some duds. He could, for example, have begun with a stronger poem than ‘Afterlife of a Predator’:
Once, there was nothing but the pack.
I led them.
These are the flattest lines to open a collection with. And ‘The Ring Dove’s Lament’ struck me as a somewhat archaic finger-exercise:
So skewered a soul
No cure for ill
Re newéd for naught
However, he puts that slightly archaic language to brilliant use in my favourite poem in the collection, the exquisite and luxuriant ‘composition in indigo and ebony’, the last three lines of which have lodged in my memory. I’m glad that still happens. Thank you, Norbert Hirschhorn.
their hide and seek
trysting in the bower
pierce the nocturne hour
And the Young Reader adds…
The cover of this chapbook is quite messy-looking, but if you stare at it for long enough you can start to see some pictures among the splodges of multi-coloured paint. The cover and inside pages are a bit thin, but the print quality and layout are clear.
There’s a lot of death, horror and famine in these poems, and sometimes they seem a bit wordy. For instance:
When inhumed in that nullity others call sleep
Then at false-dawn astride the absence beside me.
With some of the poems I felt as though I was trying to transpose algebraic equations, and I didn’t particularly enjoy that.