In January Joshua and I were approached by Live Canon to review the four winners of their competition. With intrigue we took to the task, and here are the results:
Reviews by Reece Merrifield:
Katie Griffiths’ My Shrink is Pregnant
A tightly themed poetical analysis on the intimacy between patient and therapist and its blurring boundaries, Griffiths’ pamphlet effectively explores the emotions involved inside the consulting room.
The poem that stuck out for me came near the end, ‘My Shrink Brings Back Curious Souvenirs’, with the 2nd stanza reading like a Spanish equivalent of the French national motto but for the mind, giving constructive definitions for the words ‘Recalibración’ ‘Equilibración’ & Purificación’. Most of the poems also contain wonderful images that are likely to stick with you permanently, such as ‘Branches fork in endless possibilities / making endless bids for freedom’ in ‘My Shrink’s Window’, and lines that I can only imagine perfectly resonate anyone needing therapy, the most pertinent being ‘May she gently disturb my turf, / helping me to leave this room / not the way I entered’ in ‘My Shrink Asks Me What I am Hoping to Get’.
I also find Griffiths’ blending of titles into the next line a subtle piece of ingeniousness, a clever piece of textual imagery that creates a neat contrast, one fine example being ‘‘My Shrink Has to Agree’ / that suicide is the final option’. I also found the therapist’s pregnancy as a two-sided metaphor – one of rebirth but also one of abandon, attending to the needs of another vulnerable being – an original take that offered multifarious expressions to the poems from beginning to end.
Probably to give it its biggest compliment, Griffiths’ manages to speak not only directly to other patients who can sympathise with the narrator, but also opens up an understanding for those who are unaware of the process of therapy. Truly a read that can and should be had by all.
Tania Hershman’s How High Did She Fly?
There is much to ponder on in Tania’s pamphlet, especially her takes on The Crucible, a poignant play in these wild times.
Tania exhibits deft technique through repetition, creating a whirlpool that makes the reader zero in on the crux of the matters she is aiming to portray. In ‘Mary Warren (1)’ she lays bare the advantages of peeping, and the knowledge to be gained from ‘a small way to look’, and in the end almost breaking a fourth wall by ending the poem with ‘which of us is the great one now, /and which of us is blind?’. Again, in ‘Abigail (5)’, she creates a bombardment of a poem from the simple line, ‘A wild thing may say wild things’ in Miller’s Crucible, giving punchy responses for those who indeed ‘never did wild things’, a clever counter-response with those without ‘wild words’.
Although not as strong as a collection, the other half of the pamphlet certainly has its highlights. ‘Alone with Scissors’ is a harrowing poem whose line breaks create a wicked suspense, a narrator obviously in the grips of despair who ‘in the darkness, / cutting’ alludes to just more than cutting her own hair. Furthermore, ‘I am’ is an elegantly simple poem with a rhythm fully suited to a floating, weaving ‘part-leaf / part-lake’ that ends on a rather ambiguous ‘bank / you can never reach’.
The collection overall has certainly made an impression on me, and wishing her further success with her recently released and what if we were all allowed to disappear, something I would definitely love to come across soon.
Reviews by Joshua Cialis:
Yellow by Miranda Peake:
Miranda Peake’s pamphlet Yellow takes seemingly everyday events and presents them in a rather surreal way: steering planes with ‘music and magazines’ or the unresponsiveness of winter. Peake’s way with imagery allows us to live within the pamphlet, forces us to take on its emotion but also its humour and realness of life. It may be for this reason that Miranda Peake has been published in so many high profile magazines such as Ambit, Under the Radar, and by the Poetry School.
My favourite poem within this pamphlet is ‘Dear Virgo’, the story of a day, of waking up, getting ready, travelling through the rain on ‘wet webbed feet’ and reading the day’s horoscope. The imagery of ‘Dear Virgo’ is so subtle that it cleverly builds the scene using sound and movement: a crowd is grown out of shoulders and knees and people ‘sliding towards sandwiches’. This poem seems to be a triumph of everyday action – or inaction whichever way we might look at it.
Why? And other questions by Robin Houghton
Robin Houghton’s pamphlet Why? And other questions successfully blends art and everyday life with poetry. As you might expect from a title including a question, this pamphlet asks many questions which makes this pamphlet moving in ways it wouldn’t be if we were merely told answers. Houghton also does something that lacks in a lot of contemporary poetry (and something that I personally would normally steer clear of), rhyme. Houghton uses rhyme in a strong and subtle way that hammers home his point quite clearly.
Something that I love about this pamphlet is the mention of art throughout the poems; there’s mentions of Rodin, the act of sculpture, photography, and even two poems dedicated to T.J. Cobden-Sanderson the co-creator of Dove typeface. The blend of art and poetry has always been something that intrigues me and allows the reader to build a better image using these well-known artistic motifs. One poem that so successfully manages to blend the line between visual art and poetry in this pamphlet is ‘I ask what colour is the sea’; a poem which is synesthetic in its approach to answering the question.
I find it greyscale of gull belly caught in a squint, a hint of gravestone.
Some days a sick greenish grey. But I ask the world and it says blue.
Some days I see a red horizon, its neat cut staunched by blotting paper,
a frieze of container ships like comedy castles, a spot of shadow play.
These lines successfully and beautifully answer the question posed while simultaneously regarding a certain annoyance at the simplicity of how others might answer ‘But I ask the world and it says blue’. The poem not only answers its question about the sea but also poses many more questions about the power of vision and of comparison.
I enjoyed reading Robin Houghton’s Why? And other questions, if you think you’d like to buy it go visit Live Canon Press’ website to order yourself a copy.