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REVIEWS
  THE RED BOOK - By Ben Barton

This is a fine collection of poetry and is a very good example of an individual voice.   The Red Book brings together Ben Barton’s collected small-press poems published from 1996 to 2006. Many have appeared in some of Britain’s foremost ‘little’ magazines, including Scriptor, Roadworks and X Magazine.

In the 40 poems in this book Barton explores many issues, from packing when moving house, "My life packed away / in boxes / categorised.  The thing  / I said I would never do."  to condemnation with a twist of alcohol and cigarettes,  "things I hate the most" where he tells us "you choke / garrotted year after year."

Many of these poems are shorter snapshots, only a few lines long,  which you find yourself wishing he had expanded and developed.  There is the the feeling that he feels this himself and he writes in WORK IN PROGRESS "My notebook is full / Of opening lines //   but that is all they are / What they will remain / / incomplete / (for now) / like me."

The Red Book was Poetry Kit's Book of the Month in August 2006.

THE RED BOOK - By Ben Barton   pub Plane Tree (UK)  (2006) ISBN 1842941801  4.99

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LIMBUS OF THE MOON - By Stephen Morris

Stephen Morris has produced 12 volumes of poetry over a long writing career which has run parellel and frequently overlapped with his work as a visual artist.  Limbus of the Moon is his thirteenth book and in some ways is outstanding.  It serves as a fine introduction to his poetry and although his visual poems are not represented, and those are among his strongest work, there is still much here to recommend it.  In DANGEROUS DAYS Morris tells us "some days / are more dangerous / than others / the postman brings bad news." He takes us through a litany of things to illustrate this contention including children crying and a dog howling, the news of a death before bringing it to an intensely personal conclusion with "she hasn't phoned / the bitch just hasn't phoned."  The title poem concludes with the lines "Nothing prevails in death, / The final perfect art." this is a repeated theme as there are poems here written about death, others about the loss of love.  The sense of loss is palpable and explored. well. 

LIMBUS OF THE MOON - By Stephen Morris pub Pale Horse (UK) (2006) ISBN 0955162408

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Poetry Kit's Book of the Month OCTOBER 2006.

THE SORROW PSALMS - Ed Lynn Strongin

The Sorrow Psalms is described as a book of twentieth-century elegy and I think it could easily be studied alongside Donald Davie's, The Psalms in English, which is a book  I have often returned to.  There is a strong and sure editorial hand from Strongin which gives the anthology a sense of cohesion and although the theme is liberally interpreted the choices for sections in the book and the poems selected never seem out of place.  

 Along with obvious selections like Dylan Thomas' A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London and John Berryman's Epilogue there are some other less obvious and very interesting poems. For instance Instead of You by Stephen Dunn and Easter and Snow both by Robert Peters.

  This is an anthology to keep and dip into for the superb quality of the poetry.   Perhaps one that deserves to find its way to a larger audience looking poems suitable for particular occasions, something that, as this anthology proves, poetry does so wonderfully well.

THE SORROW PSALMS - Ed Lynn Strongin pub University of Iowa Press (USA) (2006) - ISBN 087745986X

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INSPIRED BY OUTLAWS - Les Merton

There is something about the Beat Generation that continues to inspire poets 50 years after  On the Road and Howl.  In Inspired by Outlaws we have Les Merton showing quite clearly what that is.  In ROAD MOVIE he says "A movie is a movie - a road movie is something else -" it is this something else that he is exploring in this collection of poems.  The title is literal, the poems, Les says, were inspired by the magazine Outlaw.  There is a poem here about Al Capone for example so there is the  outlaw, but Les extends the idea and in a short poem COOL HAND shows a jazz pianist who "strolled sex/ across black and white keys."  The outlaw as outsider and other and it is this that is the strongest influence as in the powerful poem about homelessness, which Les has experienced first hand.  WANDERING CAMBORNE STREETS, following a list of shop names the poem goes on " a clone / of everywhere and anywhere".

Les sees a correlation between outsider, outlaw and the beat generation that gave up the conventional life to travel and find a new way.  Beat life and life as a road movie is the underlying theme in all these poems, and that is what Les delivers here.  A journey of exploration and discovery through Cornwall and the world with poems that include music, prostitutes, transvestites and Redruth and always following the beat of his own drummer.    As MONDAY EVENING - REDRUTH says; "From an embankment fire tree, / the magpie's call sounds like machine gun fire. // An army of dark clouds position / behind Carn Brea, and the drummer in a band / that will never make it beyond practice sessions / rolls thunder across roof tops."   The outsider has a way of thinking and looking at things that Les makes his own here.  In many respects Cornwall never looked this exciting before but I think that is the point, you have to see it through his eyes.
 
INSPIRED BY OUTLAWS - Les Merton pub Palores Publications (UK) (2006) - ISBN 0-9551878-4-2
(available from Palores Promotions, 11a Penryn Street, Redruth, Cornwall, TR15 2SP. UK. )
The retail price is: 6.99 UK plus 1.50 P&P - $12.99 USA plus $3.00 P&P
Payment by sterling cheque made out to Palores Promotions or by Paypal to les.merton@tesco.net

BEAT REALITY - CD - Les Merton and The Moontones

This CD contains poems from Inspired by Outlaws (see above) written and read by Les Merton and set to music by The Moontones.   For a poetry put to music album to be successful, you have to have some great poetry being read by someone who can bring the best out of it and lay it bare before the listener and musicians who can interpret the mood of the poems and be sympathetic to the rhythm and cadences of the language being used.   On Beat Reality Les Merton brings the very best from his poems and the band compliment it beautifully.  

For me the outstanding track is the title track, which bears lots of repeated listening.  The other tracks all have a lot to recommend them, not least the Brian Eno inspired ambience some of them create.  As an introduction to Les Merton and his poetry this is an excellent sampler containing some very strong work including  Smoke Rings and Biography of a Generation.

BEAT REALITY - CD - Les Merton and The Moontones (available from Palores Promotions, 11a Penryn Street, Redruth, Cornwall, TR15 2SP. UK. )
The retail price of the CD is: 6.99 UK plus 1.50 P&P - $12.99 USA plus $3.00 P&P
Payment by sterling cheque made out to Palores Promotions or by Paypal to les.merton@tesco.net

 


 

 

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