Chanticleer Press - £1.00
Sweet Nothings is a cute green pamphlet with a cow on the front. The nothings are big Nothings—time, death, age, madness, ‘the point’. The sweetness is a mischievous sense of humour and a preference for tightly rhymed formal verse (though by no means exclusively—shape and prose poems also feature). We are warned from the start, “Do not grab Hamish by the horns.” It is good advice.
The poems are best off the cuff. They are almost all very small—the pages are only A6—and jump backwards and forwards through different fonts, text sizes, layouts and shapes. The variation creates suspense—the reader asks themselves, ‘what next?’ It is in their capacity as undiscovered surprises that they are most enjoyable. The majority of poems don’t encourage in-depth repeated readings, but then not all poetry does. One fantastic moment comes when we turn the page to find ourselves face to face with “DEATH” (only bigger). A lot of thought has obviously gone into the layout, setting up interesting contrasts and similarities. In this case, opposite death sits “eternal bliss”. Elsewhere, facing each other across the centre pages, are sides of a poetic equation.
None of this makes the the collection disparate. Little continuities—God, angels, accountancy, war, recurrent words— help the poems associate with each other nicely. Where Livermore might annoy some readers is where he might please others. The way in which sense is led by rhythm and rhyme in some of the humorous verse, for example, will appear funny or frustrating depending on your point of view:
What Time Is For
Time is for prolonging pain,
driving man and dog insane,
making pleasures all too brief
and bringing precious youth to grief.
Being so short, many poems share this type of proverbial tone on complex ideas. Easy to dismiss as ‘trite’, or a quick bit of entertainment, there are moments of surprising poignancy in this fun and experimental collection.