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

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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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Joyce Walker

 

 

 

Second Screening

I gaze at my imperfect breasts,
Scarred by two other operations
And wonder what I’ll feel
If it is third time unlucky.

It’s odd that losing one
Would terrify most women,
But with me, it’s thoughts of
Leaving things undone, unsaid,
Of no longer being there
That scare.

So if my figure goes,
Who cares?

 

 

Joyce Walker is a retired administrator. Has had poetry and stories published in a number of magazines.  She won 1st prize in the Writers Brew story competition in 2002 and was runner up in an Erewash Writers Flash fiction competition in 2013.  She took 1st prize in the Writers Forum Poetry competition in July 2016.   She loves the First World War Poets.

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Colin Crewdson

 

 

 

Meeting the family, 1937

These are sunny days. They sit arranged
around the teacups, teapot centre,
cakes to eat in this glade of leaves and glitter;

she wants her fairy-friends to show up
but her visitor’s here, laughing with her brothers.
Her shoes shine white as bone china under the table,

small grass stains on one heel. Father’s absent,
feeding his chickens, but her favourite dog
sits up next to her, eying the sandwiches.

I know he likes me, but how much?
she writes on the flysheet of her latest
Walter Scott, in shorthand.

 

 

 

Colin Crewdson lives in Devon, tends his garden and writes when not fending off pests and other work.  His poems have been published in several other magazines including The Journal, The Open Mouse, Anima and The High Window.

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Dan MacIsaac

 

 

Catbird

 

Dumtella carolinensis

 

Gray pretender

samples beats

 

from spring peepers

and circus jays.

 

Coy poacher

salts its song

 

with crow ratchets

and blackbird rasps.

 

Droll plagiarist

cribs calls

 

from silken oriole

and spring bobolink,

 

even thieving

the wildcat’s

 

wounded mew.

 

 

 

 

Dan MacIsaac writes from Vancouver Island. His poetry has appeared in many journals, including Magma, Avis and Agenda, and is forthcoming in Stand.  Brick Books published his debut collection Cries from the Ark in September 2017.  His writer website is danmacisaac.com. 

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Ben Banyard

 

How you’ll describe me to your grandchildren

I like to make you laugh, but worry
that’s not the substance fathers are made of.

Tell them I was funny, then, if you like,
but don’t be afraid to say that I shouted sometimes.

Remember that the times you said I was being mean,
I was tired, or sad, or worried, or afraid.

You are such good, clever, unfathomable children,
but it’s easy to lose sight of that sometimes.

Right now, you think I can repair everything you break
but I might let you down on that score one day.

In fact, tell them what you like about me, I won’t know.
But please give them my love.

 

 

 

 

Ben Banyard lives and writes in Portishead, near Bristol. His debut pamphlet, Communing, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2016, and a full collection, We Are All Lucky, is due out from the same press in 2018. Ben blogs at https://benbanyard.wordpress.com.

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Ian Heffernan

 

 

 

 

Vernon Square

They’ve posed themselves in favoured spots
Around this dour, abortive square
That sits beside the King’s Cross Road:
An innocence of London drunks.

One stammers helplessly in sleep
Then coughs and gurks; one makes to sing,
His voice a sort of half-formed fart;
A third stares out a traffic sign.

All in their different ways engaged
In gently teasing nothingness.
The early sunlight holds them now;
As morning thickens they’ll move on.

 

 

 

Ian Heffernan was born in 1965 and grew up just outside London, where he still lives. He studied at UCL and SOAS. He works with the homeless.

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Santino Prinzi

 

When Stranded on an Iceberg

When stranded on an iceberg in the middle of the ocean, do not squint while the sun screams at you. Remember that somewhere it is raining, that there’s a tempest swirling, a tsunami rising. Even though your clothes are wet, stand up and straighten your back. Exercise. Breathe deep. The air is what you’d expect: cold, refreshing, lonely. When stranded on an iceberg, talk to yourself. Remind yourself of who you are, of why you are, or else the disembodied voices will try to convince you otherwise. Listen to what you have to say because no-one else does. When they discover you stranded on an iceberg, you won’t be a body but a somebody. Don’t tell them where you were running from, tell them where you want to go. Look to the horizon, and don’t turn around.

 

Santino Prinzi is the Co-Director of National Flash Fiction Day in the UK, the Senior Editor for New Flash Fiction Review, and an Associate Editor for Vestal Review. To find out more follow him on Twitter (@tinoprinzi) or visit: https://tinoprinzi.wordpress.com

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