HappenStance 2007 - £3.00 www.happenstancepress.co.uk
Not common, nowadays, to read a collection containing as many love poems as Michael Munro’s. How refreshing, amongst all the angst, darkness and irony that seems to be poetry’s current stock, to be reminded of the emotion once celebrated as supreme, the one that another poet said moved everything:
On a white midsummer night,
be the only star,
down the long moth-haunted meadow,
Some of Munro’s imagery is delightful, expressed in deft and perfectly-judged language. It lifts what might otherwise be rather ordinary poetry. For example, in ‘Binboats’, the poet imagines himself as a Venetian binman:
La Serenissima’s scavenger
lifting the weight of tourist trash
from off the fragile islands
to let them swim another day
And in ‘Primigravida’, a loving couple are
in an autumn that knows the nudge
of winter’s cold shoulder.
Munro could, however, learn more about endings. A number of these poems actually finish at the last line of their penultimate stanza. ‘Less is more’ may be a poetic cliché, but it’s often true. Sometimes, too, his writing dozes off, as when he describes a little girl dancing as having a “face like fizz”, an inadequate and lazy phrase, it seems to me. Yet the same poem (‘Dancer’) contains a fine hymn of praise for what I will chiefly remember this collection for:
There is fine love, and the fortunate may know it,
there is stark joy, and the best among us find it
The Common Reader comments:
I enjoyed this pamphlet. Almost all of the poems have lovely endings. I liked the cover and I wondered if it was inspired by ‘Dancer’ which begins
In a green field on a blue day
a little girl is dancing
The poem ends
And we all go dancing at the end
into the bright west
What a wonderful way to go! I liked ‘Primigravida’ and ‘You lit a candle’. One of my favourites was ‘Gardenias’ which captures memory in great detail:
Remember one gardenia afternoon
an autumn away from here?
My very favourite is ‘Trajectories, Mull’. It made me cry but in a good way. I have often driven across Mull to the Iona ferry and I loved every word of this:
Wait a moment more here,
then back to the narrow way west
and the road’s end Iona.
Poems for Alice is a moving collection of memories and I am very glad Munro shared them.