Acumen Occasional Pamphlets 10, 2007 - £3.50

I pick the pamphlet up and the blurb reveals that Roy Davids is fascinated by the process whereby poems “like white noise” can “linger in the imagination as they meld with readers’ own experience, finding other resonances” and “maybe even working a deeper magic.” The front cover is a glum, pixellated photograph of a big tree. I am sceptical. As a reader, I don’t tend to linger, meld or resonate much at all, and that’s the risk with this sort of poetry—will it work for everyone?



Many of the poems are pleasantly written descriptions of the English countryside: landscapes, fishing, the hilarity of geese, farms, “Aga bread and cats’ paws”. But readers with little in common are unlikely to feel personal responses. I liked one poem very much—“Fishing” and it is brief enough to share in full:



They lay like a broken mirror

in the bottom of the boat

as if the surface of the lake

had fallen from its frame

and we had gathered splinters

of the silvered glass,

guilty to make it whole again.



It’s vivid, it’s visual and it draws you in, although the last line might not be strictly necessary. But then other visual poems left me unstirred.



About half of the poems are not descriptive but reflective and these, too, I was divided on. Some, like ‘Being’, a playfully metrical rush through solipsism, are tightly-written and well-expressed:



I think therefore I am

Is good enough for me.

But what is true of you?—

could you be the figment

of a fiction that is me?

Because you think, you are,

but then, therefore, am I?



Other meditative pieces, though, are awkward and come across to me as slightly pompous. Davids has a habit of announcing truths through the use of ‘we’: “we live too much/ defined by what’s already gone” (‘Doubting Thomases’); “Death is not an end for those/ we love much or admire” (‘In Memoriam Bettina Bachmann’). And sometimes explanations get in the way: ‘The Auctioneer’ ends with an italicised note squeezed into the bottom of the page about an Oscar Wilde witticism referred to in the last two stanzas—which is a shame, because its unnecessary inclusion muddies the overall effect.


Taken as a whole, I found the pamphlet only partially successful and perhaps this is to be expected from a work which expects readers to form personal relationships with poems. For me, what appealed most was not deep magic but a neat turn of phrase—like, for example, this comment on time (from ‘Inflation’):



Years and days are a grain of sand,

so Futures won’t mature,

now Time’s no more a measure,

and more is only more.




Chris Beaton