Konstandinos Mahoney reviews ‘Sunshine at the end of the world’ by Chris Hardy

 

 

Sunshine at the end of the world, Chris Hardy’s fine fourth collection, has time hanging over the forty nine assembled poems like the sword of Damocles; but rather than casting a shadow, Hardy’s awareness of the impermanence and fragility of things permeates his work and gives it meaning – through acknowledging the finite, he illuminates the pathos of transience; at the end of Hardy’s world is the liberating light of the Greek islands, not the opaque gloom of Hades.

‘Pulse,’ the first poem in the collection begins at the beginning with a newborn baby, /all there is for you is your/immortal, unopened second/.  From there the poems move backwards and forwards through time and memory, Europe and Asia, human and animal, mining the depth and excavating the span of a life well lived and observed. ‘Deadelus’ looks afresh at the myth through the three classic partitions of time; It is good/ to live in the moment, but what if the moment/ is no good?//Then you must live/in the dark/cluttered labyrinth/of your past,/or the empty balcony/high on a mountain/that you call the future/…. /after all that is what Icarus did -/dive off/into his future./ In, ‘The dustmen laugh at last year’s diary,’  the paradox of non-linear time, reminiscent of Eliot’s Four Quartets, is simply but profoundly explored, /Birds sing before dawn/I was dead before I was born.

There is no superfluous ornamentation in these poems, couplets, tercets, short, clipped lines, Doric not Corinthian, rarely spilling over to a second page. Imagery is fresh, original, arresting, never there just for show, always an integral part of what the poem is saying; the title poem, for example, describes a graveyard where the dead are buried, standing up, /cold, mud-clamped sentries/knee deep in the water table/. The second verse describes a burial at sea, with white flowers sprinkled on the surface looking from below like stars – a fearless and beautiful imagining of one’s own final ritual of departure. In ‘On schedule,’ Hardy uses a deserted airport at night as a metaphor of the heavenly gates, a portal to the other side, Saint Peter as checker of souls replaced by a custom’s officer who waves him on to the other side – a memorable and haunting poem for frequent flyers.

The poems, even the very short ones, are often structured around a narrative, a memory, an event, and it is Hardy’s skill that these poems, though brief and sparse, pack a powerful emotional punch; in, ‘Going for a walk.’, a poem of only sixty words, the pain and guilt of not hastening to a mother’s death bed is conveyed with maximum impact.

Hardy is expert at ending a poem, an elusive skill, for example in ‘Auspices’ and ‘Thread’, and the moving, ‘Catch it up,’ where the poet concludes by telling a child that if he ever catches a little bird in his hands, /the frightened heart/beating beneath your fingers/will make you/let it go, an ending as moving as it is beautiful and true, encapsulating the tender humanity that runs through this poignant collection.

Hardy, a philhellene, brings the crystal light and myth of Greece to many of the poems.  Among the Greek poems is ‘Borderline,’ a vivid evocation of a hillside nunnery; as Edward Lear painted striking watercolour scenes of Ottoman Greece, so Hardy conjures Greece in verse, an atmospheric description of an Orthodox nunnery in its mountain setting above the sea. The poem centres on a minor incident – a tourist being hushed by a nun protective of her sisters’ need for silence; but just as the poem seems to be over, the poet glances down at, /the narrow sea far below/where refugees drown, trying to reach the shore/ – a scene reminiscent of Breughel’s, ‘The Fall of Icarus,’ and Auden’s  ekphrastic poem, a tragedy, a drowning happening at a distance without anyone noticing; in Hardy’s poem, imagined survivors vanish into the ‘dark green, scented forest.’

Hardy’s tender and affecting collection feels like an elegy, a beautiful and accepting celebration of what was, what is and what is to be – a poet writing at the peak of his powers, ‘Sunshine at the end of the world,’ is a highly readable collection of humanity, compassion and wisdom.

 

Sunshine at the end of the world by Chris Hardy is published by Indigo Dreams.  Order your copy here: http://www.indigodreams.co.uk/chris-hardy/4593968553

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Neil Young reviews ‘The Nagasaki Elder’ by Antony Owen

 

 

Antony Owen’s fifth collection, The Nagasaki Elder (V Press), is one of those compelling slim volumes that reminds you what poetry can do when it confronts the big themes of our times – or any times. Those themes don’t get any bigger than war, and its obscene effects on civilians sacrificed on the altar of geopolitical manoeuvres. What marks out Owen’s work as exceptional is the illuminating perspectives he brings to a subject that is already so well travelled, and with such agonising acuity, by poets stretching from Sassoon to Tony Harrison, and – more contemporaneously – Martin Malone.

It is rare now to find a poet so publicly committed to exploring this territory, and those who attempt it often do so in so didactic a manner that the poetry can easily be dismissed; but Owen is too agile a poet for such pitfalls. Each poem urges the reader on to the next, and in doing so he reanimates the micro-worlds of Nagasaki & Hiroshima, in its daily routines, its landscapes and natural environments, so vividly, that the eradication of such a vast and complex realm and its people – within minutes – strains believability.

From the outset, Owen displays a knack for lyrical twist that will be repeated throughout the collection. “On a playground where children vanished into black magic” he opens in ‘The queen of new Hiroshima’, and we are alerted to a world in which the real, the hyper-real and the otherworldly are inseparable. As a scene-setter, this poem could hardly be bettered, going straight for the political jugular as “we see empires/are realms of pot-bellied maggots in human thrones/stacked thirty foot high”. Elsewhere, it is his ability to ‘tell it slant’ – as Emily Dickinson exhorted poets – and hit the reader with an image from an unexpected angle that is most affecting. In ‘The last fare collector of Hiroshima’ “They found her fingers in a jelly of yen/her skin one with the standard issue fare-bag”.

Such graphic descriptions could risk wearying the reader, if overused, but Owen is quick with surprises. Variation of tone, form and movement of theme come together in a mosaic. He can grasp the fantastic – or fantastical – and tender in a breath: “Remember, my sister/we are made of beautiful atoms/ up there in the doll-eyed darkness”. And he has an unerring eye for reminding us that the past – especially this past – is contemporary, or, as Louis MacNeice put it “the future is the bride of what has been”. Owen moves seamlessly from harrowing, but often beautiful, evocations of Nagasaki and its people to the Luftwaffe bombing of home city of Coventry, and in doing so parallels the atrocities unleashed on civilian populations. In ‘Koventrieren’, he summons a word introduced to the German language to mean ‘to completely destroy a city from the air’, and honours his subject with memorably heart-rending lines: “If only you had laid him three yards to the left/you would both be arm in arm down High Street now”.

This sequence of poems is more than elegy, though. ‘A park near Chernobyl’, ‘Collateral damage’ and ‘Before the new bombs fall’ bring us up to date with the toxic extremities created very often, not by remote regimes, but elected western governments. We need only remind ourselves that not a few months ago our current Prime Minister Theresa May was cheered for boasting that yes, she would push the nuclear button, while her rival, Jeremy Corbyn, was decried for insisting the opposite.

When such a perverse, dehumanised version of public discourse becomes not only tolerable but the norm, we need all the dissenting, eloquent voices for humanity that we can get. Owen is at the forefront – a poet who, admirably, balks at the personalised meanderings of poets with little to say beyond their own orbits. Rather, he has immersed himself in the tough mental and emotional toil of getting to know Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and its people. He writes universally, but with an insider’s eye. In doing so, he has written a collection that is both timely and timeless.

 

 

 

 

The Nagasaki Elder by Antony Owen (V Press, £9.99)is available here: vpresspoetry

Neil Young  is co-founder of The Poets’ Republic magazine. His publications include the chapbooks: Lagan Voices, The Parting Glass – fourteen sonnets, and Jimmy Cagney’s Long-Lost Kid Half-Brother.

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Claire Booker reviews ‘Mahler’s Hut & Other Accommodations’ by Alan Price

Image result for ‘Mahler’s Hut & Other Accommodations’ by Alan Price

 

 
Which of us hasn’t yearned for an artist’s hut – that womb like space in which to delve for truths? Gustav Mahler’s little chalet in the Vienna Woods peeps out from between fir trees on the cover of Alan Price’s newest pamphlet. Mahler himself emerges from this sequence of poems as a wounded creator, an épateur of the Viennese bourgeoisie, a man of clay (and hemorrhoids), a traveller into the land of the dead.
“You foolishly entered the summer hut/ to write music you imagined was pure./ Such discipline working the long musical line.”
Price understands how, for the creative artist, life is a struggle between vision and execution. His finely worked poems attempt to fathom the creative impulse. In ‘By the Forest’s Eye’, he depicts the uneasy symbiosis of nature and art through the medium of the great god Pan, who observes Mahler at work on his 3rd Symphony:
“I’ve listened to your tones. Now hear what nature/ tells me. Bird, animal, insect, flower, tree march/ to my soul, ascend the ladder. You were created/ in the last hatch of my brain. You’ve seen the origin of the chain. If you climb up I’ll count the parts./ Sometimes a limb, petal, wing is broken. All flaws/ hurt my generative eye.”
There is a touching poem about infant mortality (Mahler lost five brothers) containing the exquisite lines: “The pips of those lost hearts/ planted in music of tempting fruit./ God’s bells chiming for the falling apples./ The voice of the orchard angel praising/ your orchestration.”
Each of the Mahler sequence of poems relates to an individual symphony. In ‘Felling of the Tree’, Price brings life and musical composition into powerful resonance. Mahler’s triple loss of his young daughter, his position at the Opera House and his health found their way into his Symphony no 6: 
“A propulsion of every right note to the right disaster./ A ‘love of fate’ imagining five hammer blows./ An ear for structure and sanity reducing them to three. . . ./ Falling like an axe with a Mahler cry.”
Price makes connections seemingly effortlessly: “The black sky pours down/ its hoard of grotesquery” on the lake “as Mahler insanely rows.”  “Goethe keeps shouting/ the eternal feminine.” “The darkness falling when abandoned/ The giddy way you waltz to the ditch.” He is like an artist applying layer after layer of brush work to build up tone and texture. He is not averse to sly wit either. In ‘Requiem for an Atheist’, the profligate Berlioz demands twenty cymbals for his orchestra:
“Far too expensive for a requiem,/cried The Ministry for the Interior./ At its premiere only six were used,/ the minister counted them.”
The second, shorter section, of Mahler’s Hut, is an eclectic mix of stand-alone poems. The three most affecting are prose poems. In ‘The Work’, a female librarian’s life has been fragile: “The nose-bleeds, the ridiculed red hair, mutterings of shame/ about her size, the school attacks and her hard-won pride.”   The Cure’ cleverly fits form to content in a thumb-nail sketch of a stutterer. Most powerful of all, ‘The Dignity’ visits the territory of social class and aspiration, where the poet remembers a friend who has died of asbestosis:
“You are gone/ my beautiful maker of doors. Sometimes I can see you walking/ with that shoulder bag, your eyes alive to unconditional honour.”
Price’s poetry is erudite, but he wears his research lightly. His technical skills, which are impressive, only augment the humanity at the core of his search for truth. Price’s deft juxtaposition of the demotic and the mythic, the musical and the prosaic makes for a thrilling read. Mahler’s Hut will appeal to anyone who finds interesting questions more satisfying than easy answers.
 
 
Claire Booker’s debut poetry pamphlet Later there will be Postcards is published by Green Bottle Press (www.greenbottlepress.com/our-books). Her poems have appeared in Ambit, Magma, Poetry News, The Rialto and the Spectator among others. More information at www.bookerplays.co.uk
You can order your copy of  Mahler’s Hut & Other Accommodations by Alan Price ( Original Plus) – price £3.60 here: http://thesamsmith.webs.com/originalpluschapbooks.htm#971222028

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Elisabeth Sennitt Clough reviews ‘Gaps’ by Jenny Danes

 

 

 

 

Gaps is the debut pamphlet from Jenny Danes, a winner of The Poetry Business New Poets Prize 2015/16. Comprised of 17 poems (23 pages of poetry), Danes’s pamphlet corresponds to the dictionary definition of ‘gaps’ as differences between views, situations, or ideas (Collins).

The following lines from the title poem encapsulate the self-conscious choreography of steps through each other’s language that the speaker of the poem and her German partner undertake. These lines serve as an abstraction for the entire pamphlet:

 

…What is this complete

chance that you and I were brought up in different tongues?

How is it that we would name the same object or feeling differently

and always have done?

 

There is an assuredness of voice and technique at work here, which results in many of the poems interrogating the world in which the poet finds herself – never more so than in the aptly titled ‘Moving to Another Country.’ The poem opens with an image of ‘rough beaches,’ where

 

From my sand-filled mouth

clauses trip and fall.

 

Dislocation is a key theme throughout: the reader is witness to the constant play between the insider and the outsider. As such, it is perhaps hard not to view these poems without the uncertainty of a post-Brexit Britain in mind (at the end of the pamphlet, the poet returns to England). It is no accident that the poems open up into white space – there are very few full-stops at the end of Danes’s poems.

 

Like many of the poems, ‘Moving to Another Country’ is full of surprising twists. The humour of lines such as these

 

I make three faux pas in a row

that are all to do with drinking

 

hints at the stereotype of the drunk British tourist abroad. Danes is keenly alert to the nuances and comedy of translation and cultural intersection. In the penultimate poem, ‘Things I Left in Germany,’ three of the items the poet lists are a ‘thicker skin,’ ‘a nostalgia for England’ and ‘a language I’ll slowly forget.’ There is a refreshing clarity and honesty at work here.

At the end of the pamphlet, the poet’s playfulness reaches its pinnacle in ‘Deutsch,’ a poem that riffs on untranslatable English idioms and sayings:

 

Oh but come and chat out of the little sewing box!

How deep is the sea? I am as happy as a snow king,

I’m on cloud seven, tousled and cosy with my tootle sack

 

Not only does Danes have a sharp ear and eye for detail, but her poems are what Helen Mort, judge of The Poetry Business 2015/16 New Poets Prize, describes as ‘anthropological.’ These are ‘elegantly-crafted poems that stand back and take a good, hard look around the room, finding a fresh language for what they see’ (Mort).

Gaps is a startlingly assured debut and is available to purchase now from The Poetry Business.

 

 

 

Order your copy of Gaps by Jenny Danes (Smith / Doorstop, 2017) here: http://www.poetrybusiness.co.uk/shop/942/gaps

 

 

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Kevin Saving reviews ‘Shadows Waltz Haltingly’ by Alan Morrison

It should, in the interests of full disclosure, be recorded that this reviewer has been trumpeting the merits of Alan Morrison’s erudite and tendentious verse for over a decade now. Online, in conversation and -once previously, in a book review- Morrison’s flare for words, his passionate espousal of un -or pre- fashionable causes and his intellectual omnivorous-ness have been signposted to anyone who might listen. This, his seventh collection of poems, expands his range still further and treats compellingly of his family’s excoriation by Huntington’s disease -a genetic disorder which rampages through generations, leaving both its immediate victims and their closest intimates harrowed in the cruelest of fashions.

Shadows Waltz Haltingly‘s title-poem takes as its subject the unsteady a-rhythmic gait characteristic of Huntington’s Chorea (which, among its other sobriquets, has been called ‘Saint Vitus’s Dance’).

…the trick with this imbalanced
Balletic feat, this preternatural paso doble,
Tripping quickstep, stuttering foxtrot, rubber-limbed rumba,
Juddering jitterbug, jittery jig, apart from the glide upon
Flat feet, glissades of fallen arches, is in anticipating
Its unpredictability, so that it seems an effortless,
Almost automatic, puppet-like extemporisation
Of motor and cognitive faculties, no strings visible…

The extract quoted above demonstrates typically Morrisonian methods, utilising as it does an ‘impasto’ effect (adapted from the painting technique) by adding layer upon layer of colouration whilst simultaneously incorporating a species of quasi-Joycean word-play (‘Balletic feat… glide upon flat feet’) and Anglo-Saxon alliterative patterning. These syntactically-dense accretions -with their near Word-Association nexuses- can be terribly hard to consistently ‘pull off’, and it says much for their author’s fine-tuned poetic ear that he succeeds far more often than not.

A sizable proportion of this collection stares unflinchingly into this same Huntingtonian neurological abyss (as witnessed in Morrison’s maternal and maternal-grandfather’s case-histories) but nowhere to more effect than in his ‘extended villanelle’, ‘The Rage’. Those of us who have ever attempted that most recalcitrant of poetic forms, the villanelle, know just hard difficult it can be (in T.S.Eliot’s words) to ‘land the kite safely’. Here, with great dexterity and no small craft, the poet assembles sixteen of the constituent word-cages (the usual received number of stanzas is six) with their multiple refrains and limited, binary rhyme-scheme, and still brings them back to earth adroitly.

How does a gentle soul go out in rage?
Most enter in a tantrum, part in tears,
But some -again- rave as they disengage.
{…}
Autopsies thumb the brain’s each cabbaged page,
Leaf flimsy onion skins obscure as smears;
Neurons scoured this gourd, and caused the rage
{…}
No whispered reassurances assuage;
What she grasps abruptly disappears
To shadow’s dislocated mucilage.
{…}
The hunted gene knows few test-volunteers:
Why trace the cureless thunder at this stage;

Pre-empt the protein-pogrom to rampage
Before it has to? Will my punished ears
Prepare me more for when I disengage?
Will augurs fail? Will I go out in rage?

Here is an extraordinary writer at work, perusing the clinical literature, reading-up on his neuro-pathologies, researching his familial prognoses and fashioning what he has learnt into a formally-adept and moving work of art which leaves most ‘un-extended villas’ looking pretty drab and cramped by comparison. This reviewer -a retired nurse who has himself worked with Huntington’s patients- knows of only one other poem in the canon possessing similar stature. In his courageous refusal to surrender to the temptations of despair and his clear-eyed, informed compassion, Morrison has penned his very own ‘Invictus’.

Elsewhere in Shadows Waltz Haltingly we encounter a number of Acrostics concerned with troubled poets such as Thomas Chatterton, Isaac Rosenberg and Ivor Gurney. Several of Morrison’s previous publications have show-cased this form (wherein the first letter of each succeeding line gradually elicits its subject’s name) and he has grown steadily more confident in his range of effects. What is doubly pleasing is the way in which he is now frequently able to assume the featured writer’s idiosyncratic style -as exemplified here by ‘Marigolds to Distraction’ (i.m. Emily Dickinson).

Eyes like the sherry in the Glass the Guest leaves-
My mind is too near itself -cannot see unclouded-
Indian Knots Stich my Heart- Hair like Chestnut Bur-
Leaves me to see into myself -transparently-
Youth Clouding my Mousy Brow -Yellow Buttery.

Miss Emily Dickinson’s daguerreotype holds itself -fleshed out with trademark dashes- up to the cool mirror of introspection.

It would be easy enough to continue to name-check the frequent bright particulars of this stand-out publication (like, for instance, the charming, short formal-piece, ‘Nightbird’) though, unfortunately, too many prized-up poetasters have already left the miniscule poetry-reading public un-bewitched, unbothered (yet) increasingly bewildered. Alan Morrison will, I very much hope, continue to ignite his refulgent verbal fireworks -though it would be particularly sad if they were to merely fizz out into a sparsely-tenanted ocean. Work of this stature -and especially in these challenging times- demands the attention it would so amply reward.

 

 

Order your copy of  Shadows Waltz Haltingly (lapwing Press) by Alan Morrison, here: lapwingpublications.com/

 

 

 

Kevin Saving is Home-counties based versifier and reviewer in his mid-fifties. His work has been published in ‘Poetry Review’, The Independent on Sunday, The Daily Mail, and (quoted) in The Morning Star. He most frequently writes for ‘The Recusant’ (ezine).

 

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Devika Basu reviews ‘Dreams of the Sacred and Ephemeral’ by Kiriti Sengupta

 

“I consider poetry my existence”— it is indeed a revelation on the part of a poet who has coined chiseled words from the depths of his heart to present this poetic trilogy, Dreams of the Sacred and Ephemeral, a genre quite unique in literature. The book takes us into a world of subtle nuances, where the ‘sacred’ and ‘ephemeral’ unite to make a complete ‘whole.’ My Glass of Wine is full to the brim and we, the readers, drink the elixir “to the lees.” With his subtle strokes of brush, Kiriti Sengupta transports us to a world where the concept of divinity is definitely multilayered. “I drank it first/ right after I was spiritually baptized” — the concept of Christian baptism and Tantra, the drinking goblet of Christ, red wine and ‘somarasa’ — all these images are in perfect consonance with the poetic fervor of Sengupta’s well-researched work.

The poetic journey goes on and the poet makes the readers feel the agony of crucifixion, which is bloody, and thereby makes the color symbolism more appalling to the readers: “They pinned it before, and will do that now and again…/ No arrangements of incenses though!”

After having dwelt on a world of colors, and reflecting on the awakening of Kundalini (spiritual awakening) with a view to “unveil the mysteries of life,” Sengupta enters into the realm of profound philosophy with a candid incantation of scriptures, where human beings are presented as trees, as embodiment of the reversal. He writes, “Reversal demands practice of the principles that lead us towards truth or realization.” This is, in fact, an introspective journey into the human psyche where Sengupta has heard the sound of the ‘unheard’ in “all works imperishable.” This is a realization of not only the poet, but also of a very sensitive human mind, where we can hear ‘unheard melodies’ from within.

Sengupta has also dealt with the reversal of the so-called concepts of sex and sexuality. Sengupta has raised some pertinent questions regarding the transgenders, Lara being the mouthpiece. The story of betrayal, her desire and the aversion of the society towards homosexuality, lesbianism — all these burning issues bear a poetic resonance in the mighty pen of Sengupta. “You will call it fetish, I guess … I need some cologne as I step out of my home … odor that is mine … physical … deceptive.”

Sex and sexuality are the areas rarely discussed within the arena of family members and this self-imposed taboo often bears perilous consequences. While reading the poems in the trilogy, the readers might be reminded of the overtly sexual references:

 

I have matched my lips

With the highs of your water

As you flowed joy

The Sun has dared to surface

On your mirror playing both

A she, and a he toy.”

 

Sengupta himself has labelled some of his poems as ‘omnigender’ and has put into question the traditional orthodox ideas about sex and sexuality.

How is society related to literature? Is literature a mirror of the society? Sengupta has tried to answer these questions, referring to the recent conflicts and the vested interest of the war-mongers, which is in sharp contrast to the “dharma yuddha,” a struggle for justice as envisioned in The Mahabharata; and The Gita bears ample testimony to the fact. Therein lies the dichotomy of existentialism, depicted by the author.

In Healing Waters Floating Lamps, the concluding part of the trilogy, we discover the myriad hues of poetry, a journey “beyond the eyes,” with images of the holy Ganges, Varanasi, where “water is not the fire-extinguisher.” Evening descends in Varanasi as a symbol of meditative, serene landscape where flames ignite to utter words of devotion. The ‘floating lamps’ are resplendent with life and the images of ‘fire’ and ‘water’ add to the grandeur of the poem “Evening Varanasi.” In the concluding part of the trilogy, we come across some intimate details which owe their origin to the Wordsworthian concept of poetry as “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” Sengupta pays tribute to his mother with such clarity of diction that we, the readers, are simply mesmerized: “I have seen my mother preparing Ghee out of milk/ She never used butter/ To clarify it further.” Sengupta has focused on the diversity of human life, moments of rapture as well as the pain of separation: “Not all rivers succeed to unite.”

An intuitive mind unravels the mystery of creation, the concept of ‘nothingness’ where the human body is confined within a ‘cage.’ The essential paradox of human existence depicted by Sengupta clearly reveals his profound knowledge of Indian philosophy.

 

The womb carries water — so do your eyes

Water builds the fetus

That becomes ‘I’

 

Sengupta’s confession is utmost here — the agony and ecstasy of creation portrayed in unequivocal terms. The deep-rooted sorrow, a sense of loss and bereavement touch the poet: “Few beautiful scratches deep within/ Soft marks, palpable even after months/ No wounds, but tiny scratches brown/ Soothing, mesmerizing in between.”

Dreams of the Sacred and Ephemeral is a poetic journey which enthralls the readers throughout; the temporal and the eternal converge within the poetic metaphors. The ancient scriptures, the Holy Bible are revered by Sengupta with proper diction. This poetic trilogy makes us think — we delve deep into the world where ephemeral becomes timeless and nothing is transitory. Even there is a positive note to enjoy life after death! Poetry is the alma mater of Dr. Sengupta and he has nurtured his verses with utmost care. As we go through his verses, we have an insatiable hunger to read more and we tend to build a bridge between poetry and life. As Sengupta started with an anecdote of Shesher Kobita, I may conclude my notes with Tagore: “Antore atripti robe/ Sango kori mone hobe/ Shesh hoye hoilo na shesh” [There will be a feeling of dissatisfaction/ Having finished/ We will feel/ This is not the end, but more to come].

 

Order your copy of Dreams of the Sacred and Ephemeral (Hawakal Publishers, Calcutta) by Kiriti Sengupta here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dreams-Sacred-Ephemeral-Kiriti-Sengupta/dp/9385782630

Devika Basu is a high-school English teacher, bilingual poet, translator and a lover of Spanish literature. She loves to explore the hidden treasures of different literary genres, with a special focus to poetry. Her published works include three books of poems. Her pen scribbles the diverse aspects of life and she loves to face the challenges of life. She has traveled extensively and she would like to walk across the inroads of life with poetry.

 

 

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Konstandinos Mahoney reviews ‘Acrobats of Sound’ by Colin Pink

 

 

 

 

 

Colin Pink’s impressive first collection, Acrobats of Sound, takes its title from his poem, A Peal of Bells that marvels at the ability of heavy leaden church bells to be rocked into joyful conversation. And this is what Pink does over the seventy-seven poems in this highly readable collection, finding in nature, art, the city, memory, transience, subjects that can be coaxed and swayed through the rhythms of poetry to loosen their tongues and sound out their hidden song.

Pink, an art historian, has an eye for the visual, though his poems go beyond the merely descriptive, delving behind the surface to interrogate what lies beneath. Victorian Woman in Green Dress, one of a number of ekphrastic poems in the collection, this one based on Vittorio Coroc’s oil painting , Sogni, perfectly exemplifies this, going from the visual, /as your/chin rests on the soft plinth of your hand, fingers/ gloved in a second skin of supple leather./ to the final line, Let’s unwrap time, peel/back each brittle layer, until we might meet, a powerful insight into the real behind the real, realism in the painting of the woman as a representation of both surface and hidden realities, the construction of an aesthetic reality through dialogue between a living man and the artist’s illusion.

One of Pink’s strengths is his ability to develop an arresting image into a wider metaphor and open the poem out into a philosophic observation, his is the poetry of both image and thought, an ability to move from the concrete to the abstract. His poetry only occasionally uses end rhymes, his preferred way of shaping a poem is through stanza length, meter, and a deft use of internal rhyme and assonance. Though images are vivid his verse does not feel lyrical or rhapsodic, pace is steady, poems build steadily delivering an observation that is always worth sharing. This gives his work a feeling of integrity, a poet you can trust, a poet who is gently sharing observations on the strangeness and wonder of things. Field Path takes us on just such a modest journey, a country walk through ever denser foliage until the path runs out, but on the journey back /retracing/steps that now seem so different,/no longer recognizably ours at all/ he captures the strangeness and paradox of landscape altered by the direction we move in with it’s wider echoes of the forward passage of time and the unfamiliarity of the past despite having lived it.

Pink’s poems are economic, often making their point over three to five stanzas, poetic journeys that are neither too taxing nor too leisurely, poems that help you to arrive without overtly signposting the way. The longest poem in the collection is American Civil War Bubblegum Cards, in which, over thirteen sestets, Pink makes a sustained comparison between the realities of the American war in Vietnam as seen on television and the progress of the American Civil War as portrayed in the illustrated bubblegum cards he collected as a boy. Seen again through the eyes of his boyhood Pink uses simple language and syntax allowing the horror to come though in descriptions of the printed images on the cards/In one scene a little boy/is hanged as a spy; he looked a bit like me,/it made me feel sad, I guess that’s what//it was meant to do/ And images on the television, /Napalm illuminated the screen/like every firework display you’d ever seen./Children came running, naked, down a thin/road, their thin arms outspread, their thin skin/burned off./ Comparing the two American wars in this way is original and gives a renewed freshness to both, a wholly original and successful way of showing history’s futile repetitions of war and violence.

The starting point of Pink’s poems are often landscapes, paintings, buildings, objects in the present or past. His wonderful poem Games The Dead Play jumps straight at you from nowhere, from behind a tombstone, spare, boney couplets frolicking in skeletal scariness, gothic playfulness, /On birthdays they blow out other people’s candles/and watch darkness descend from all angels./

 Acrobats of Sound, a handsomely published book by Poetry Salzburg, reward the reader with accessible, thoughtful, beautiful and engaging poems. Reading Pink’s poems is like being with a friend who delights in opening your eyes to the mysteries of the world around you. His counterbalance of deep thought and vivid image has a European feel to it, a philosophical thread running through his poetic oeuvre. I look forward to his next volume.

 

 

 

Order your copy of Acrobats of Sound  by Colin Pink (Poetry Salzburg 2017) here: http://www.poetrysalzburg.com/acrobats.htm

 

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