Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Catching up

Regular readers will know that a monotonous feature of this blog is an endless stream of promises to get round to finishing reading or reviewing certain books, and a parallel outpouring of apologies for failing to do so.

I actually got round to some serious reading over the last week or so, though, thanks to some travelling, so I'm going to start to clear the backlog (yeah, yeah, you're thinking, I've heard that before).

So, first up was Simon Armitage's Seeing Stars. Now, although there seems to have been something of a backlash against him in recent years, I've remained something of a fan of Armitage, although I think his work has been a lot patchier since somewhere around The Dead Sea Poems. Almost everyone I've talked to about this collection, though, has either loved or hated it, no doubt in large part because it consists mainly of prose poems/flash fictions/whatever you want to call them.

Well, I have no problem with the format, but I just don't think the execution is up to scratch. It's fun in parts, and always readable, but too often the strangeness seems a bit forced, and the end result is rather inconsequential, or predictable. I think Ben Wilkinson hits the nail pretty much on the head in this review that originally appeared in the Times Literary Supplement.

I enjoyed Cliff Yates' Frank Freeman's Dancing School a lot more. There's a much less obvious, and thus unsettling, strangeness to his poetry. At first sight it can appear to transplant something of Geoff Hattersley's style from South Yorkshire to the Midlands, but it soon becomes clear that it's heading somewhere rather different. Yates gives seemingly plain language the smallest of tweaks to suddenly switch perspectives again and again. It's a book I'll be coming back to, and writing more about.

A bit of blog trawling produced this excellent piece on Alan Baker's Litterbug, about Don Paterson's book on Shakespeare's sonnets. Hard to find anything to disagree with there, or in the Alastair Fowler review linked to there, from the TLS.

Finally, I've just received Century of the Death of the Rose, by the Ecuadorean poet Jorge Carrera Andrade. There are parallel texts, of the Spanish originals, and the translations by Steven Ford Brown. On a recent trip to Ecuador, my guide, Juan Manuel Carrion, gave me a bird guide he'd written, in which he extensively quotes Carrera Andrade, and I liked what I read, so I ordered this book. Looking forward to getting stuck into it later.

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