Flarestack, 2005 - £3.00
A nice, clean Flarestack pamphlet, bland even, from the cover. But the contents… I suppose the sly play of words in the title should have led me to expect the opposite. These poems are not bland. They are thought-provoking, haunting, flickering on the edge, shifting out of focus at the most unexpected moments then sliding just as unpredictably into clarity.
‘The Postcard’, the longest poem at 194 lines, is a well-crafted account of a hike in the north-west Highlands, description avoiding cliché, enough unexpected images to hold interest unflagging. Other poems aren’t so clear-cut. ‘Be in me’ starts with “as if this was enough) be in me” and ends “and thus forever incarnate( ”. Without this curious punctuation, the poem makes a wild, even beautiful, sense. So what’s it there for?
Such niggles apart, the poems in this pamphlet are other-worldly, in that they have that magic deflection of the ‘real’ world so rarely found in poetry, and very much to my taste. Take, for example, ‘Park Street Poets chant down Babylon’:
I used to be a post-modernist. Now I’m a post-man.
Well, it pays the rent. And I deliver Park Street,
a short parade of crumbling gothic
twelve tenants crammed in each house
and everyone that’s not a junkie, student or slut
is a lonely Performance Poet.
Even poems with titles such as ‘A peregrine falcon over Sandfields’ or ‘Queen of the bees’ have that through-the-looking-glass twist which gives this pamphlet a touch of the ‘wow’ factor.
I could have done without the shapes of the concrete poems, which did not add anything for me, but yes—this is one I’ll read again, with pleasure.