Pighog Press, 2007 - £6.00 + £2.00 p&p www.pighog.co.uk
The “beach generation” of this pamphlet are Brighton poets, each the subject of a dedicated poem. Lee Harwood, Anne Rouse and Ros Barber are among the twenty-five dedicatees. A poem which attempts to capture someone’s essence risks failing to engage readers unacquainted with that person, but the best of these avoid the pitfall. Indeed, they made me wish I could meet their subjects. ‘Horizon’ celebrates, with strong economically-drawn images, a unique person:
a different vision in each eye,
the exact cadence
of the streets in their stroll to the sea,
the rumble of some future glory
in the sky you’ve just inscribed,
the horizon that’s yours like no one else’s.
‘Elsewhere’ tackles the subject of belonging and self-definition, and ‘Enigma’ reflects on the paradox of “how after all/ this time/ you still/ think/ it’s so funny/ to be here.” These are effective sketches of people, written with a light touch and obvious attachment.
The poems are less effective when the images and ideas lack originality. The sea that “carries your name/ with each wave, each whisper,” and the fire producing “not sparks, Tim, flying upward,/ but song, my friend/ pure song,” felt tired to me. Also the constant diet of short lines sometimes felt like a triumph of form over content. While ‘Translation’ would have been an interesting prose piece, it wasn’t untypical in its exhibition of pointless line-breaks e.g. “But perhaps/ it’s just that/ all the little people/ you’ve/ enchanted/ believe far more in/ giants/ than we do”.
In ‘Handwriting’ (for Beryl Fenton), John O’Donoghue mentions how she made writing look easy,
as if the act of transcription
caught whatever daft
vision came to you.
The best poems here achieve daftness or transcendence, but the weaker ones fail to attain either. The collection is inconsistent but worth reading for the good parts.
Rob A Mackenzie