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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