pamphlet micro-reviews

I've missed writing my blog this month; it's been busy. But here are some thoughts on three very different pamphlets I've read and enjoyed. I'd also like to say that I know these reviews are overwhelmingly positive. This is self-selecting - I am writing about these pamphlets, because I am inspired by them. I also personally know, and like, the authors, but that becomes incidental when reading their work.

First up is Declan Ryan, number 12 of the Faber New Poets, who count exciting poets such as Fiona Benson (no. 1) and Zaffar Kunial (11) among their number.
These are slender, exquisitely designed 'taster notes' if you will, of poets yet to publish a full collection, and they provide an excellent introduction to their work under the prestigious Faber & Faber imprint.
In Ryan's case, there are only ten poems in his rather lovely canary yellow offering which makes it a pleasure to absorb from cover to cover, especially if, like me, you can only concentrate for so long.
Many of these poems wear a deceptive lightness of tone that remind me of Hugo Williams, written with a tenderness at-one-remove, through emotional and/or physical distances:

'Just after rain,
sunlight stood between us
like a whitewashed wall.' (Trinity Hospital)

Real and imagined walls, and distances between lovers enhance the tenderness of address - often made in the second person - and direct questions invoke an immediate emotional response in the reader -

'When I get home will you read to me
in your new orange dress,
and lie that it's for the first time?' (Postcard from Australia)

Ryan is observer and custodian of the finest details of appearance and behaviour,  which makes reading his poems a 'felt' experience as much as an intellectual exercise.
I like it that there is no obfuscating, no need to hide in showiness. He displays a deft engagement with wider sociocultural matters including race, religion, music and environmental peril, mashing and mixing sources and voices. But it is his writing about love that stands out for me.
Writing of love's 'complicating touches', he unleashes a direct clout to the head and heart - duck, or prepared to be floored -

'I'm in my room, listening to your voice.
When this was live
you were in front of me, on stage,
in a red dress with a triangle cut in the back,
exactly the right size for my hand.' (Transmission)

I really look forward to seeing what he does next.

*Reviews of Mel Pryor's Drawn on Water and Rowyda Amin's Desert Sunflowers to follow shortly.


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