Monday, July 9, 2018

Something New


We feature each week Nicholas Reid's reviews and comments on new and recent books.

“CHARLES BRASCH  - JOURNALS 1958-1973” Selected with an Introduction and Notes by Peter Simpson (Otago University Press, $NZ59:95); “BIG WEATHER – Poems of Wellington” Selected by Gregory O’Brien and Louise St John (Vintage – Penguin – Random House $NZ30) ; “PEOPLE FROM THE PIT STAND UP” by Sam Duckor Jones (Victoria University Press, $NZ30)

In reviewing the third volume of Charles Brasch’s journals, covering the years from 1958 to his death in 1973, I find myself having to say some of the same things I said when reviewing the first two volumes (find comment on them via this link Charles Brasch Journals 1938-1957). Volume Three, selected and edited by Peter Simpson, is in the same hardback format as its two companion volumes and weighs in at nearly 700 pages. There are 34 pages of chronology preceding Simpson’s introduction and, before the index at the back, nearly 50 pages of very useful Dramatis Personae, giving notes on all the people who are most frequently mentioned.

Once again, Simpson’s extensive Introduction orients us accurately to what is to follow so, shamelessly, I shall summarise it.

Charles Brasch was only 63 when died but he was already worrying about his impending end when he was still just out of his forties. This may have had much to do with his unsettled sense that he had made no satisfactory lasting union with anybody, and time was drawing on. At the age of 49, he fell in love with Andrew Packard, a talented marine biologist in his 20s, who had an Oxford background. Brasch was attracted in part by Packard’s Englishness. But like Harry Scott, Brasch’s earlier object of desire, Packard was heterosexual, and soon disappeared to a life of research in Italy, leaving Brasch to think wistfully of him. They met amicably much later and Brasch wrote a cycle of poems about him (“In Your Presence”) in his collection Ambulando. Meanwhile Harry Scott died, his wife Margaret was widowed with three children, and – extraordinarily - Brasch considered becoming Margaret’s lover. More extraordinarily still, Margaret Scott accepted his advances and they were lovers for some time until the sexual attraction wore off. There is the implication that Brasch’s loving her was some sort of substitute for loving Harry. [Incidentally Margaret Scott – who had a hand in producing the first volume of Brasch’s journals - died in 2014, which presumably makes it easier to now make public these intimate details.]

It is possible that Brasch was sexually active after his affair with Margaret Scott was over, but it is clear that he never again felt the sort of love for one man that he had experienced with Harry Scott and Andrew Packard. He did have a strong friendship with the neurotic and mentally unstable Russian Jew Nicholas Zissermann and his mother “Moli” (Hilde), but the friendship was a tubulent one. The son was a talented poet and translator, but he had frequent outbursts of rage and he abused his mother.

Outside these intimate connections, Brasch was acquainted, via Landfall, with nearly all the literati then living in New Zealand. Simpson chronicles Brasch’s various views on New Zealand writers – which, in the privacy of his journal, could be harsh and tender by turns. The relationship with Andrew Packard seems to have kick-started his stalled poetry-writing again, so that he produced two collections in the 1960s Ambulando (1964) and Not Far Off (1969), with its title referring to death. Brasch planned and wrote much of a long poem about himself, Andrew Packard and the Scotts. It was called “Birds of Passage”; but Brasch seems never to have finished it and it is now lost. Peter Simpson remarks: “Intimate emotional engagement with another – in a word, being in love – was for CB the greatest spur to fresh composition, as he discovered yet again when to his surprise he became sexually involved with Margaret Scott some eighteen months after Harry’s death.” (p.74)

Outside literature, Brasch’s main interest was appreciating (and collecting) paintings. He admired Toss Woollaston and Colin McCahon for their earlier rather than later productions. Doris Lusk and Rita Angus were more his thing, but he at least tried hard to like the abstract art of others. The Frances Hodgkins Fellowship for artists depended in part on his patronage, just as did the Burns Fellowship for writers.

With regard to Landfall, Brasch was growing weary of the task of being editor. There was increasing criticism of the quasi-academic tone of the publication, with the likes of Louis Johnson and Wellingtonians saying it was too harsh on young talent and too pone to farm out reviewing to junior university lecturers. Brash seriously considered giving up as editor in 1961, and began agonising over who should replace him. Mac Jackson and Vincent O’Sullivan were considered. Brasch stayed on until 1966, when Robin Dudding was chosen.  (The always-malicious Frank Sargeson described Dudding to Brasch as “a nice fellow but only just not illiterate.”) Brasch deliberately left Dudding alone as Dudding set about editing Landfall, knowing that he couldn’t play the periodical’s eminence grise.  But, like others, he felt he had to do something when Dudding was fired from the publication in 1972. Hence, in his last two years, Brasch and others supported Dudding’s periodical Islands, when Landfall, post-Dudding, seemed to be losing its way.  [NB For more information on this, see Adam Dudding’s book My Father’s Island, reviewed on this blog in October 2016].

After a painful and prolonged illness, Charles Brasch died in 1973 of Hodgkin’s disease (cancer of the lymphatic system).

Thus much for Peter Simpson’s detailed and informative introduction.

In making my own coments on this journal, I begin with the obvious statement that between 1958 and 1973, New Zealand was in some ways a very different country from New Zealand now. It is extraordinary that, as we are reminded in Brasch’s entry for 1 September 1959, the New Zealand Broadcasting Service (precursor of New Zealand on Air) would allow no mention of the “No Maoris, No Tour” protests that were attempting to stop a racially-selected All Blacks team from touring South Africa. That sort of censorship of a major news story would now be regarded as both reprehensible and ridiculous. We should also note that a journal is a journal – it is filled with contradictions and changes of opinion, because, written day by day, it tends to judge things in the short term. We cannot reasonably expect Brasch’s opinions to be firm and unchanging. All reasonable people change their views on things over time. We should also be prepared for discreet bitcheries, as a private diary is the place where they can be expressed.

My own general impressions of how things move in these journals goes something like this:

Already in 1958, Brasch is death-haunted. The funerals of old friends and acquaintances begin to pile up, even though he is only in middle age. He is already working on his memoirs, provisionally called  Finestra (he would eventually call them Indirections). Landfall is already beginning to worry him, as in the entry for 3 August 1958 where is is furious at Louis Johnson for criticising the periodical.

In 1959 there is much angst about the death of Harry Scott and the status of his widow. As he did for nearly all his life, Brasch sniffs around the fringes of religion, and, while never being attracted to it himself, takes a serious interest in Catholicism - not just by associating with the converts James K. Baxter and Bill Oliver, but by reading Teilhard de Chardin and discussing things with his close friend Deirdre Airey (a doctor who was the Catholic-convert daughter of the left-wing professor Willis Airey).

1962 sees Brasch working with Ruth Dallas to put together the anthology Landfall Country. He also makes an extensive trip to Europe and to a literary conference in Australia. In England, he finds Benjamin Britten’s opera Albert Herring artificial; and the “satire” in the revue Beyond the Fringe phoney and forced. He also encounters the pale and weak expatriate New Zealand novelist James Courage, who died the following year.  By 1963 there is much glad-handing with young male academics from Auckland, some of whom Brasch sees as promising literary lights. (Alas, most of them became merely older academics.) In 1963 there are many pages of notes towards his autobiography and in 1964 there is a trip to India; and in Otago many mountains are viewed and many hikes taken. There is another trip to Europe and England; and by 1969 and 1970 an increasing number of entries on art. Brasch is intensely interested in the works of Brent Wong, Michael Smither, Colin McCahon and Ralph Hotere, although he never wholeheartedly endorses the work of any of them. There are now far more thoughts now on death and on the writing of Indirections. In June 1972,  he is both bemused and amused by the younger male poets at a poetry festival in Rotterdam. Death is creeping in. There are many entries on his slow and sometimes painful physical decline.

On 2 January 1973 he writes: “Has this pain come to stay? Does it mean to take up permanent residence in my back, chest, stomach? Sometimes I think so, & prepare to domesticate it, try to live with it. As if I had no choice. And indeed what choice has one? This is not a matter of free will. But I resist.”

By Easter Sunday (22 April) 1973 He is writing: “every day is the same, the utter weariness of this heavy, dull ache that reduces me to an animal; I can only drag one foot after the other about the house. And the nights get worse & longer…”

But he keeps slogging away at literary work. In the very last entry in the journal (6 May 1973), he says he has written “seven or eight little poems since turning on the light this morning”. He died a fortnight later.

Thus for my own very general impressions of these 700 pages.

There are some particular features that stand out for me. First, there are Brasch’s reactions to specific people and how those reactions change. To give one example: in 1964, Brasch initiated a strong friendship with Moli Zissermann and her disorderly son Nicholas. One gets the impression that Moli was a strong-willed person with a strong personality, and the little boy in Brasch tends to tag along without challenging her assertive statements about literature and writers. But his views of Nicholas Zissermann swing as wildly as Nicholas Zissermann’s own manic moods. On 10 August 1966, Brasch can write “Nicholas is a vampire, sucking the life out of his family.” Whereas on 5 May 1970 he writes “It is Nicholas Zissermann’s presence that makes Otago a university.”

I am also struck by the general absence of comments on world or New Zealand politics. There are some exceptions. On I January 1965, Brasch meets Rewi Alley, who makes a generally good impression on him. However “much that he says is persuasive. But his sources of information are clearly limited; & whereas we don’t believe everything we read in the press & hear on the air, he seems to believe everything he reads & hears in China & nothing that he hears & reads outside…. What he said about Tibet & about India was ludicrously one-sided, but we listened politely and did not take him up.” In the main, though, we find very little on politics and world affairs, even in the turbulent year 1968. Is this a matter of how the journals have been edited, or is it proof of how much of a detached aesthete Brasch was?

            What will be most important for many readers (correction – what is most important for me) is the evidence of Brasch’s literary tastes, usually expressed in pithy and brief comments where he reacts to books he has just read.

In the privacy of his diary he can say many frank things about fellow-New Zealand writers which he would not make public. From 1958 to 1972, he expresses many and varied opinions about James K Baxter, which, if read one after the other, would seem very self-contradictory. He is increasingly alienated from the work of Allen Curnow and irked by its obscurity. On 17 March 1958 he writes: “I used to admire Allen Curnow for his ability, when he worked for so long on the Press, to keep journalism & literature distinct & allow no trace of the former to infect  his poetry or critical prose. Now I wonder if the increasing difficulty of his poetry is not due in part to the effort to keep all journalism out of it, so that he has made it as different & as pure as possible, to the extent even of banishing prose meaning from it entirely.”

On 12 February 1961, Brasch writes that Curnow’s Introduction to his new Penguin Anthology of New Zealand Poetry “is the wrong kind of introduction; it explains & over-explains…. It is Allen preaching again; the gospel according to A.C.”

He tends to be even more dismissive of New Zealand writers of prose whom he thinks do not measure up. In 1958, he is offhandedly disparaging about Ian Cross’s The God Boy. Bruce Mason’s The Pohutukawa Tree he damns with faint praise in an entry for 31 March 1963: “The play is a crude and stagey one, yet it says something worth hearing, & says it effectively in its melodramatic way.” On 1 June 1963 he is of two minds about Bill Pearson’s Coal Flat. He opines that it is “the most interesting NZ novel yet written, the richest in content” but then adds “it fails to sustain its promise” in the second half. [To which I can only add “Quite!”.] On 26 June 1966, he calls Ngaio Marsh’s autobiography Black Beech and Honey Dewa sad empty book because at bottom it has nothing to say.

Of one author in particular, he is consistently negative. On 6 November 1959, he reacts badly to Maurice Shadbolt’s short stories The New Zealanders and says “M.S. is not an artist, but a very clever literary journalist.” Over five years later (17 April 1965), he reads and, in part, enjoys Shadbolt’s novel Among the Cinders while noting “But some of it is dreadfully pasteboard, some scenes designed for Hollywood, and there are pages that try to out-Crump Crump.” [Perhaps Brasch was fortunate not to live to see the woefully limp New Zealand movie that was made from this novel in the 1980s.] And six years after that (24 March 1971), he reads Shadbolt’s This Summer’s Dolphin seeing it as “very competent; but conceived as a job, an advertiser’s assignment. It has good passages… but these are offset by the vulgar commonplace of other parts, which are a journalist’s ‘story’.”

I quote these passages on Shadbolt simply because I take malicious delight in agreeing with them.

When it comes to established authors from outside New Zealand, Brasch has both his enthusiasms and his dislikes. In 1958 he thinks J.D.Salinger might be the salvation of American literature (nope – he wasn’t)  and he loves Dr Zhivago (although later, on 21 April 1959, he says it is not as good as War and Peace). On 8 January 1959 he notes the death of Edwin Muir and says he respects him more than any other modern poet. “I haven’t felt nearer to any other modern writer; nor have I felt greater respect for any other…” On the other hand, on 22 May and 4 June 1972, he finds Harold Pinter’s play The Caretakerempty & boring” and Tom Stoppard’s play Jumperspretentious kitsch”. (He might have been right about the latter).

In 1961 it is surprising to find him getting on well with Patrick White when White makes a brief visit to New Zealand  - after all, you can see his damning comments on White’s work in Volume 2 of these journals (see entry for 3 February 1957) where he dispaprages White’s The Tree of Man. Brasch goes back on the attack on 27 January 1965 where he declares White’s novel Vossis not a good book; Patrick White although very talented is a bad writer. Does he write such books because he is using his talent, or because he is driven? If the first, he’s a bad man; if the second, he is mad.”

I snickered in agreement with Brasch’s remarks (3 February 1965) on the first part of Jean-Paul Sartre’s autobiography Words: “so tiresomely clever a piece of word-spinning, so self-satisfied for all the self-disgust of its self-absorption (‘I loathe my childhood’), so cold, with a kind of calculatingness in its attitude towards other people, mother & grandfather & relatives.” But Brasch does say the book gets better in its second part.

I also roared my approval when, coming late to the novels of Henry James, Brasch declares on 20 March 1961 that “I feel sure of nothing in [James’] The Ambassadors except my ‘sense of moving in a maze of mystic, closed allusions’ (as Strether feels in chapter XV). After struggling through the first hundred pages I was caught up here and there but also exasperated again & again.” I say I approve of this statement because, as an Honours student, I hated trying to struggle through the wilful obscurities, evasions and convoluted syntax of Late Period James (“James the Old Pretender” - see my comments on various more readable novels by the chap at this link Henry James). The Ambassadors was the very novel that drove me to such exasperation that I threw it aside without finishing it.

So you see, like a true critic, I have cherry-picked these literary glosses of Brasch simply because I agree with them and think that often (but not always) Brasch showed fine sense in his reading.

But alas, I now have to come to the offputtingly Mandarin side of Charles Brasch (or “patrician hauteur” as I called it when reviewing Volumes 1 and 2). Brasch seems generally to be antagonistic to the popular art of film. He is not a complete cinephobe. On 17 March 1967, and unusually for him, he is quite positive about the the film version of Dr Zhivago and he later goes to see it a second time. But (3 April 1963) he objects to seeing opera on film because he argues that it should be seen on stage (which may be fine and dandy if you have a “private income” and are able to scuttle off to La Scala or Covent Garden to see your opera). He rips apart Peter Ustinov’s quite serviceable film version of Billy Budd (18 January 1964). On the other hand, he may have a point when he characterises Antonioni’s La Notte as “a pretentious, empty, long-winded film, very boring” (1 February 1964).

            Musical classics do not always meet his very refined standards, as when he remarks (12 October 1970): “I can’t like Brahms, except rarely. Most of his music has a deeply unaesthetic, unmusical quality that repels me – non-music in a non-style; at times coarsely literal & flat-footed.” As for the audiences for musical classics – well dearie me, some of them are simply not of his class. On 4 September 1967, after a concert performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio, he observes “Tremendous enthusiasm at the end, epecially from the Promenaders, some of it uncritical perhaps…”

The patrician side of him is most painfully in evidence when (28 March 1965)  he visits relatives and writes: “They are open & spontaneous, they have no airs & graces; I am repelled by the rough slangy speech they use invariably – June & the children even more noticeably than Uncle Reg; June never says ‘yes’, always ‘yeop’ or ‘yeo’ (one syllable); Uncle Reg never talks about his ‘friends’, always about his ‘pals’ ”. I have this mental image of Charles Brasch raising a lorgnette to his eyes and glaring reprovingly at these inferior specimens.

I could find many other instances where the hoi-polloi are rebuked for their lack of refinement. Yet if I tar Brasch as sometimes effete, over-refined and ill at ease among the mass of his fellow countrypeople, I have to applaud the times when he recognises bullshit for what it is. Consider this, from 25 March 1966, where Brasch reacts to a pretentious radio review of a book by a minor poet:

“[The reviewer] spoke what I can only call jargon; his subject seemed to be something quite esoteric, which I could not recognise as poetry; he did not sound pretentious exactly because clearly he wasn’t posing, but it was as if poetry was some fanciful game having nothing to do with life, feeling, passion, one’s understanding of the world & men: a parlour game. When I could understand him, he seemed to be talking nonsense, to be reading into [the] poems both technical skill & meaning which are simply not there…” To this forthright and doubtless accurate comment, I can only add that Brasch was lucky not to live on into the 1980s and 1990s, the age of High Baroque Post-Modernist Criticism, a verbal barricade designed to repel all but a handful of initiated academics from ever reading or enjoying literature.

In the end what is the essential personality that I find revealed in these journals? Even when writing only to himself, Brasch often strives after gravitas, as in this volume’s very opening entry (5 January 1958): “There is no original state of things. No pristine purity from which all change is for the worse. All things have momentary stability, but if observed for long enough they can be seen changing; their nature is to change: change is of their nature. I’ve always found it hard to understand & accept this; always longed for a supposed or imagined stability & perfection.”

Or is this sort of entry really written for himself?

When I read the following entry (28 March 1959) I ask - ‘For whom is it really written?’ It sounds like a soliloquy for an unwritten play, or perhaps notes towards a poem. The writer is dramatising himself for display:

How long & empty the evenings as I sit & read & fight off the drowsiness that besets me, gazing now & then at my two photographs side by side: Andrew has his eyes on me, Harry & Margaret look just to one side. Ghostly – I sit & wait & listen for a photograph to come to life; for his step outside, his voice, then he – How long can I bear it? For life, I suppose; since it is life while it lasts.”

The same note is struck in this entry from 22 September 1961: “Since I have always doubted my own identity, my real existence, perhaps the fierce hunger that bursts out in me from time to time for fame as a poet, the craving to be remembered, may spring not solely from mere egoism but from a need to prove to myself & other people the fact that I do really exist – or did exist once. A poor substitute for life itself, truly.”

I doubt not Brasch’s sincerity, but there is a painful self-consciousness here, an over-analysis of self which slips into idle and vague philosophical speculation. It would be cruel to dismiss it as the writings of one who has much time on his hands, but it does seem to reflect the thwarted romantic in Brasch, the man who was not only shy of people but who never made a lasting and satidfactory relationship with somebody he loved. Penning these things for posterity is his substitute for really relating to live human beings.

Where I find myself liking Brasch most is on the simplest level – as one who had a strong aesthetic response to nature, ultimately Wordsworthian in inspiration. From beginning to end in this volume we find him apostrophising the night sky, as in

(17 January 1960) “A mild half-clouded night, the moon drifting through the cloud, Orion above & a few other stars” etc. Or, nine years later, as in (20 July 1969) “A circle of pale haze round the horned quarter-moon, which is lying on its back, a little tilted, more than a halfway down the west. Venus swims in attendance just outside the circle, which dims her. Other stars are pale too; not very many. Will men really land on the moon this night? I must hope so, now they have got so near.”

            As an Aucklander, I admit my personal bias in liking this side of Brasch. After all, it leads him, as a Dunedinite, to make the following most generous assessment of Auckland (8 August 1960); “How Auckland invites one to relax, to expand, to flow outwards & lose oneself in the Gulf, among the vaporous islands, in the great skies. There are no supporting disciplining forms here; Rangitoto magnificently relaxed, is the only great presence. I love the ease & expansiveness of the place, the diffused whitish light, the blue of water & sky, the voluptuous pure clouds, rich trees & their rich shade.” I also concur with his remark (16 December 1970) as he is driven by Deirdre Airey and observes of landscape just out of Auckland:  “the motorway south through country that I always find surprisingly more English than any other part of NZ” Yes – I’ve often had the same notion when it hit places like Pokeno and Pukekohe and see them resembling nothing so much as the original landscape illustrations out of The Hobbit.

            I conclude this overlong and opinionated review (Oy mate! – Show me one review that isn’t opinionated!) by congratulating Peter Simpson for having, like Kit Smart, “determined, dared and done” this formdable task of editing and annotating.

   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

I enjoyed reading my way through the new edition of the anthology Big Weather. Gregory O’Brien originally edited the selection with Louise St John (who died in 2009). It was first published in 2000 and expanded in 2010. The brief introduction is regrettably a little gushy, telling us that poetry now thrives in Wellington because of the wonderful Victoria University writing programme and book shops etc, although it fails to note the obvious ongoing fact that Wellington has per capita more literati because it is the centre of government, and hence has more civil servants, bureaucrats, heads of companies and other consumers of high culture than other national centres. In other words, it’s Bourgeoisie Central.

Okay, I’m an Aucklander so I’m being a little snarky here, folks, but it is the truth.

Enough of these fightin’ words. The poems are the thing and this is a really enjoyable collection. Taking a (micro) geographical approach, the anthology has five sections, titled Central City; Harbour and Sea; Suburbs; Parks, Bush and Beyond; and [new to this edition] a final section of poems written in the early 21st century. Other than in this last section, the poems are not in chronological order. Surely the oldest poem in the book must be the Aussie Henry Lawson’s “The Windy Hills o’ Wellington”, from the 1890s. Another real oldie would be Katherine Mansfield’s prose fantasia “Vignette”, though it’s pushing it to class this as a poem.

As I’ve said before on this blog, for me the most iconic Wellington poem, included in this collection, remains Baxter’s “Wellington”, dating from the 1950s, with its last line about the “radio masts’ huge harp of the wind’s grief.” As an Aucklander, I always think of this when I drive into the city of Wellington. As an Aucklander, I should also note that I spent a year living in Wellington and enjoyed the experience, although of course Wellington is not a true city, but a collection of discrete villages hidden in hills.

From whatever generation they arise, a great number of poems here emphasise the wind and the hills and the shut-in-ness of Wellington, but on the whole, the older ones exalt and Wordsworthise (David McKee Wright, Robin Hyde, Eileen Duggan, even Louis Johnson in his “Song of the Hutt Valley”) while the more recent ones are more socially conscious and either get down to the seedy side of life or comment ironically on domestic and city situations. Very good to read poems from the generation of Kirsten McDougall and Airini Beautrais (the woman who wrote the best collection of poetry to be published in New Zealand last year, Flow) and good to see the tradition of honouring place in verse still being followed.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

This is an idiosyncrasy of mine, but I think it is valid. If a poet expresses an admiration for Frank O’Hara, then I am immediately on my guard. Call it prejudice if you like, but the American Frank O’Hara has become the patron saint of the slap-it-all-down-in-any-order-so-long-as-it-fills-the-page boys. Coming at the fag end of the Beat era (1950s-60s), his was the Beat aesthetic of “first thought, best thought” pushed to banality. No wonder a plethora of pub poets follow in his wobbly footsteps, ‘cos it’s so easy to do the disjointed diary stuff.

Sam Duckor Jones’ People From the Pit Stand Up begins with an epigraph from Frank O’Hara. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. The blurb describes this debut collection as  “wonderfully fresh, funny, dishevilled” (the last term has validity), and according to one pre-reviewer it is “gorgeous and contrary”.

Um, “contrary” to what?

We are told that Sam Duckor Jones is a sculptor and his metier is certainly reflected in his verse. The long (25-page) sequence “Blood Work” concerns, in part, the making a ceramic man which seems halfway between the Golem and Frankenstein’s monster, but is also an object of desire; so the sequence has heavy homoerotic undertones. Art. Embrace. Kneading. Desire for love from an invented image of oneself. Yet, as a sequence, it is hopelessly fragmented. At best some interesting imagery can be retrieved, but the form is simply confusing and incoherent in the real sense of the word. It does not cohere together. 

Various shorter poems deal with Auckland and sculpture and the male sex. We plunge deeper into the oily pool of sexual confusion in a two-part poem called “How Female-Admirer Dream Narratives Run Rampant Through the Gay Collective Unconsciousness” and in various poems we enter the milieu of  “hand jobs” and  “late night hook-ups” and gay references from a guy who apparently has a preference for rough trade.

But what is “contrary” here? If the term denotes satire or dissatisfaction with society, all I see is the dreaded sneer, as in the title sequence “People From the Pit Stand Up” with its first section’s closing line “People do live here & have full & active lives” (at which we are all meant to snigger) and later in the same sequence “There’s a flash cheese shop in this town         So between getting pissed & stealing shit try a           truffle oil brie.” Yes folks, getting pissed and stealing shit makes us the brave bohemians.

You will notice in the line I have quoted the arbitrary – and essentially meaningless – breaks between words, frequently found in this volume with such lines as  “tomb           stones      ar         rive     in           south     er    ly     sets.” The breaks do not in any way correspond to how anyone would read these lines or any individual word therein. They have nothing to do with pauses for breath. What purpose do they therefore serve? If Sam Duckor Jones is a visual artist (sculptor – and there are some line drawings by him in the text), then I suppose the argument would be that this is poetry as a visual medium, in this case visualising separate tombstones, but      it      all     t       oo           otf      en        se         ems     a      g                     ag             to       p            ad      out      the     te                             xt.          

Might I add that my comments reflect no animosity to the poet, whom I do not know, nor to the life he apparently leads. There is even the possibility that some people will respond favourably to this volume. I am a very broad-minded person after all.

No comments:

Post a Comment