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Rages of The Carbolic by Clive Gresswell (KFS Press), Some Municipal Love Poems by Simon Smith (Muscaliet Press)

Rages of The Carbolic by Clive Gresswell (KFS Press), Some Municipal Love Poems by Simon Smith (Muscaliet Press)

When I reviewed Clive Gresswell’s Jargon Busters, his first collection from Alec Newman’s radical and innovative Press, I recall using a phrase about the poems possessing an authoritative tone which is accompanied by a compelling lyricism. This new collection firms up that opinion for me. As the opening poem offers us “new shapes from this froth of form” we are introduced into a reading of the past through “a gate left partly open” and we are invited to glimpse

“narrow (needless) chattering
divulging corners of winter
(we) crept into the crypts
& buttercup fields.”

Our present reading of the past reveals our inheritance and the “froth of form” which constitutes poetic language permits “new shapes”. In a sense we emerge from the hidden darkness of the buried past (kruptos) to “buttercup fields” of explosion:

“igniting craters in gathering blossom
to storms of deluxe transition we ferry
able sea-soldiers subliminally required
a gesture at the foot

breaking fortunes to new requisitions
we gather in harvests of the bland
to dictating new forms of capital explosions
the garden-path is blocked

an extra energy exerts excitement
exhorting byways gathered in the sonnet
a dim-lit lecture betrays new breathing
clutching at the straws”

The martial and political thrust here is counterpointed against the language of the pastoral, the nostalgic nature of which is little more than “bland” and as that tyrant of Language, Humpty-Dumpty, recognised “When I use a word…it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less”. However, Gresswell knows all too clearly what has happened to language and you may be “wrapped in your blanket / field of dreams” but still have to come up against broken realities:

“& all the kings horses and all the kings men
marching an army of dreams on its belly
into the umbilical”

There is less anger and more O’Hara in Simon Smith’s most recent collection and there is a tone of both realisation (acceptance) and resignation (a shrug of the shoulders) in his opening ‘General Purpose Love Poem’. That which can be “gathered” in a sonnet can be seen

“as fourteen pence of change
as fourteen sous of change
as fourteen bits all in a row

the fourteen lines of chance
& the six degrees of knowing

on London streets
along the boulevards of Paris

not an earthly
art without a heaven
not without chance”

If the world of Frank O’Hara casts its wandering shade over these attractive glimpses of time passing then so does Browning’s Faultless Painter and we can almost hear the wry tones of Andrea Del Sarto as he muses

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for? All is silver-grey
Placid and perfect with my art: the worse!
I know both what I want and what might gain,
And yet how profitless to know, to sigh
“Had I been two, another and myself,
“Our head would have o’erlooked the world!””

Simon Smith’s skill as a poet and jongleur resides partly in his ability to forge “base language / into pure song / into various song” and partly in his understanding of human frailty and lost opportunity. These new poems are a delight and they reflect the vision of this new independent Press that believes in writing as “a process of synthesis; of arranging, combining, contrasting and layering ideas through language”.
Or as Smith puts it

“there’s a fizz in the glass
& the pleasure is mine
& ideological

like a guitar with L / A / N / G / U / A / G / E printed all along the
fret board

Ian Brinton, 10th January 2019

6 responses »

  1. Dear David Your organisation carry so many men with their insights and outlook in book form – so few women. How so? Regards. Joyce.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Reply
    • Dear Joyce,
      This untrue. We have always had a fifty – fifty ratio of male and female contributors.
      You may be referring specifically to the blog reviews. I shall address the issue and restore
      our usual balance of men and women poets and writers. Louise and I are seek a balance as the
      magazine has done since 1984. Best wishes, David

      Reply
    • Dear Joyce,
      It would I am sure be a delight for us at Tears in the Fence if more people would write these regular weekly reviews. Perhaps you might submit one yourself to David next week?
      Yours in expectation,
      Ian.

      Reply
  2. Reblogged this on cherishthelady and commented:
    Poets to note reviewed

    Reply
  3. Thanks to Ian’s invitation to contribute a while ago, I’m glad to say I have an essay in the forthcoming issue.

    Reply

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