Harpercroft, 2008, £4.95
Halfway through this glossy, extremely attractively produced pamphlet, it struck me that Gordon Jarvie is one of those poets who doesn’t just suit the extensive use of rhyme, and especially end rhyme—he needs it.
That’s because, left entirely to its own devices, his low-key, anecdotal style has a tendency to drift towards the prosiness of a diary entry, albeit a thoroughly engaging one. The strictures of rhyme, and to a lesser extent other formal requirements, give him just the guiding hand he needs and this results in some fine poems.
So, the collection really took off for me with ‘Do You Remember?’ and ‘Planting Late Bulbs’, where he uses end and internal rhymes and a lively rhythm.
In other poems, the rhymes help point up the ironic and self-deprecating humour, never very far from the surface and positively bubbling over in the likes of the ebullient ‘Cold Snap’, which boasts the splendidly silly:
You know what they say,
said my frost-nipped wife:
A day out of Crail
is a day out of life.
So then we turned tail
and went home to Fife.
Elsewhere I felt that the poet, having made his point gently and persuasively, sometimes told the reader too much. In a couple of pieces though—‘The Child Is The Father Of The Man’ and ‘Edinburgh Trajectory’—he makes that work to his advantage, the latter neatly blending poetry and memoir. Here, one of Jarvie’s most attractive qualities shines through—his refusal, while looking through “the still-clear lens of memory”, to give undue weight to regrets or sadnesses.
Ultimately, it is this that makes ‘Watching The Sun’ an enjoyable read.