Skip to main content

Guest Review: Parker On S/S/Y/K 4


Bobby Parker
reviews
Stop/Sharpening/Your/Knives (4)

It has taken me a while to write this review. The book swallowed me. I found myself in a beautiful, haunting and obsessively quirky world that I just didn’t want to leave.
Writing this review almost bursts a magic bubble. I must be careful. And I must begin by saying that this is the best contemporary anthology of poetry I have read. Honest. After a lull in my own poetic output, S/S/Y/K (4) has filled me with the urgency to surround my own dark, silly and surreal ideas with fresh words, vibrant words, words that, far from desperate, know they are bright enough to lure us into a powerful dream.
There are 28 poets in the book, with black and white illustrations between the poems. The artwork doesn’t just complement the poets; it stands side by side with the poems. It gives you that moment, after a final line that has just snatched your breath, to feel the genuine playfulness of this place just as much as the dark humour and the absurd abstractions.
The book opens with three poems by Mollye Miller. The first ‘Stepping Out of the Shade Particles’ ends ‘in this unbelievable garden I am only waking up.’ Perfect.  
For me, the standout poems are by Nathan Hamilton, Matthew Gregory and Sam Riviere, they just struck a chord with me. They make me dream.  
I keep coming back to Nathan Hamilton’s poems ‘Malcolm Training’ and ‘Malcolm Judged’: ‘Lone Malcolm kicks at shadows in the long evening / the wind busy scribbling him out’ and ‘he is a crime of sorts and very anti most things.’ sounds like someone I know, ahem...
In Matthew Gregory’s first poem in the book ‘Discovering the Early Humans’ we go into Hades and meet ‘an elderly ram, in pointy slippers, a formal tux – / withered, eyes turned in from each dim century.’ And in the second poem a couple found a young pterodactyl and ‘loved it with our eyes closed; simply, too much, / now it has outgrown us and we are left / clutching after its wake.’
I find myself picking up the book and flicking to Sam Riviere’s poem ‘Rain Delay’ and staring at it for a long time to get to the bottom of ‘the wing-beat rate a beetle needs to stay dry in the rain’ as words like ‘Amit’s aztec gaze’ and ‘a witchhunter’s ardent, direct line’ poke me in eyes. This poem shifts and ripples, it is exciting stuff. Sam Riviere never fails to make me scratch my head (in a good way) before I smile or sit staring for a while, wondering how he does it. 
Other great poets in this book include Jon Stone, Joe Dunthorne, Ben Stainton, Emily Toder, Jack Underwood, Emily Berry and Tim Cockburn; with illustrations by Benjamin Brett, Beatie Fox, Megan Whatley, Lisa Handley and Helen Maier, to name a few.  
To be honest, I feel guilty that I couldn’t write about every poet/poem/piece of artwork in this great anthology.
Every now and then a book comes along that sort of untangles the wires and allows the electricity of poetry to run smoothly through my veins and fill my head with colourful lights. If you don’t buy this book right now, I can only assume you don’t like discovering new poetry, cool poetry, poetry that becomes a close friend and tells you strange and wonderful things in the middle of the night. I can only assume you are not human. 

Bobby Parker is a British poet.
2 comments

Popular posts from this blog

AMERICA PSYCHO

According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…

DANGER, MAN

Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…

OSCAR SMOSHCAR

The Oscars - Academy Awards officially - were once huge cultural events - in 1975, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Shirley MacLaineandBob Hope co-hosted, for example - and Best Picture noms included The Conversation and Chinatown. Godfather Part 2 won. Last two years, movies titled Birdman and Spotlight won, and the hosts and those films are retrospectively minor, trifling. This year, some important, resonant films are up for consideration - including Hidden Figures and Moonlight, two favourites of this blog. Viola Davis and Denzel Washington will hopefully win for their sterling performances in Fences. However, La La Land - the most superficial and empty Best Picture contender since Gigi in 1959 (which beat Vertigo) - could smite all comers, and render this year's awards historically trivial, even idiotic.

The Oscars often opt for safe, optimistic films, or safe, pessimistic films, that are usually about white men (less often, white women) finding their path to doing the right thin…