TINA BASS HASN’T EXACTLY avoided familiar subject matter for the poems in Fat Man Dancing—nature, love, death, etc—but she does often manage to come up with vivid images, some a bit too vivid for me. In ‘Boat’, which I took to be about a derelict one, “wet gobs/ for fish breath” are spat out, and “mosquito larvae squirm in your puddle-belly”; and ‘A Pointless Story’ has a man born with no eyes giving a Jehovah’s Witness on the doorstep a fright by forgetting to wear his “ocular prostheses”. Such images certainly make these poems stick in your head.
There are flights of imagination here too, as in ‘Woman-puddle’, where Bass imagines women as various liquids. Elsewhere, her language tends towards the prosaic, which I felt worked better in the shorter poems. However, she can write in a more lyrical style, as in the second half of ‘Shell’, where I liked: “nuzzled/ against the knuckle of my smallest toe”.
This is a neatly presented collection, 32 pages with an Aubrey Beardsley drawing on the cover—not quite the fat man from the title poem—and an easy enough read. I found it rather off-putting that a page of acknowledgements at the end lists all the poems with a note of each one’s magazine or competition success. A few poems, poor souls, are recorded as “unpublished”. Given that these pieces now appear in the pages of this book, that seems not quite accurate, and rather harsh.
But how can you argue with ‘Way to go’, which I quote in full:
I died without knowing.
Faded out slowly in my sleep.
The best way to go,
if you’ve never died before,
so they say.
I would have rather died fucking.
The Common Reader says of Fat Man Dancing:
My first thought when I picked up this pamphlet was what a great title. The poem ‘Fat Man Dancing’ is full of energy and yet again I’m reminded that writers can capture beautifully what the rest of us might miss or sneer at:
I see the beauty
of a human
released from a moment
letting music move through him.
Fat Man I salute you.
Fat Man Dancing is a well balanced collection. Bass can do amusing and moving in equal measures. ‘Englishwoman Abroad’ and ‘Way to go’ struck me as pricelessly funny