Flarestack Poetry, 2006 -  £3.00


I conducted an experiment with George Wallace’s pamphlet. On my second reading I ignored the titles, allowing the book to flow as one single poem. The experiment exposed a similar standardised ‘Wallace’ rhythm and identified the entire collection as being directionless. Wallace’s poems were pleasing sometimes, but so dense with clashing imagery, my mind wandered every two or three lines.  

    The poet also reveals his technique too easily, opting for surrealistic repetition, presenting parallel images, à la Lorca, to create a tableau in verse. It’s a valid technique, but hardly enjoyable in as many as 17 poems out of 30. Furthermore, many of the images border on the ridiculous, and make little sense even if a context is available (“your breasts/ were soupcans/ to me then.”).

    Individual poems in weaker collections often stand out, or are included to boost a poor crop; and true enough, poems like ‘A Heron is Not a Stone’ would in any other book seem competent. Sadly, this is a directionless collection and occasional flashes of proficiency are not enough to make sense of the high velocity succession of images. 

   Throughout when i was dead, I sensed Ezra Pound bursting to be heard, but Ez would not have liked this. Ez would have quailed at poems which are merely shimmering surfaces. He would have told George Wallace that stream of consciousness writing is supposed to reveal something latent, not just comprise a list of over-qualified nouns. The result of Wallace’s close-fisted writing, is that his situation —historical, personal, and poetic — is lost in a nonsense of imagery that overloads the reader:

a raccoon crawls out of the gutter of his hope and it laughs.

there is lightning in a teapot my father once used to kill the queen of the ants.

there are innumerable children blasting out of his exhaust pipe at dawn.

 And on it goes, tiring and endless, unwilling to give the reader anything at all. Not giving the reader anything at all is the greatest crime here.


Peter Burnett