Lingering and Loving
rebel angels in the mind shop, Tim
Cumming (60pp, pitt street poetry)
Margaret Thatcher's Museum,
Antony Owen (24pp, Hesterglock Press)
A Fright of Jays, Marc Woodward
Not So Ill with You and Me,
Fani Papageorgiou (98pp, Shearsman_
Tim Cumming's angels are non-participatory, they hover and
observe, do not interfere; often report and do not even comment. This is
perhaps their rebellion, or perhaps that is what angels do; it certainly is
in Cumming's mind shop.
Although I miss the grittier urban poetry Cumming used to write, I have to
say these captured moments of longing, travel, conversation and family life
are exquisite and accomplished. One poem here is called 'Time Lapse', which
have been another apt title for the collection:
The ways we deal with
the fast track of
sunlight across windows
from the top of a passing
its route through the
the sun sliding from
major key to minor,
a sharp clearing note
breaking in the body
twisting from its bud or
the ferns and fronds of
waving from the bottom of
It gives you a feeling,
This is beautiful writing that takes an image and expands it, often in
several direction at once, in this case imagistically, conceptually and
visually. It also highlights one of the problems I have which is the way
words often get repeated, in this case 'major' occuring twice within two
lines. It's a personal problem, I'm sure, and I understand how repetition can
lead to stasis and slow a poem down, but I dislike it intensely and it is
something Cumming does a lot in this book.
Ah well, it is a minor quibble, more than compensated for by the rest of his
work. The end poem is particularly strong, a flashback to the poet's youth,
where the narrator watches himself and then turns to his readers:
Tell them we are coming.
Tell them we have not
Indeed he has not grown old, just wiser, quieter and more accomplished as an
author. Cumming moves from strength to strength and I look forward to his
Meanwhile, Antony Owen is perhaps where Tim Cumming used
to be, namely in Margaret Thatcher's Museum, an angry, assertive pamphlet collection from a poet who lives in
Coventry. There's no doubt about the sincerity and passion at work here, but
it is best when Owen uses familial and/or cultural detail to flesh out his
poems rather than polemic or bizarre images. What, for instance, to make of
this, the start to the prose poem 'The Man Who Ate the World'?:
if the street played a
violin it would sound like secrets from
damned men and throb like
bones of sparrows sighting the axe.
It would deafen like the
howling pack who grieve for earth's
pale Mother bloodied in
the days last throes.
This, and an ongoing struggle with punctuation, are the weak elements in what
is otherwise a strong debut. Better are phrases like 'the fleur-de-lis of
snowflakes' and 'Every street is rebuilt by birdsong', although some of the
overtly politically outspoken poems are also very strong. I love this opening
verse to 'Nigel Farage Street':
Walk with me down Nigel
and let's pound the
street like a fascists flag.
We'll pass the bunting of
a slaughtered pig
then you will look
offended and I'll say
token British things to
make you feel better like
Mum said youre lovely for
an Indian and still
lovely when I said you're
This is laugh aloud stuff with a serious message underneath. When Owen is at
his best, this is what he achives. Library closures, IRA bombs, abandoned
cars and failing industry, suicides and Owen's father's death are all
explored here. The title perhaps suggests writing rooted in the past, but
this is as urgent and contemporary as it gets, this is righteous anger and
truly contemporary poetry that mixes the personal and political:
When I was a son
you closed with the
broke things to fix them.
You grew a moustache,
wore unemployed clothes,
caged your words in a
That black leg Easter you
Thatcher glided in a
like spit on union coats.
I was your son a long
when I raced to the gate
of your Kawasaki
Childhood was an itchy
on a site full of white
Childhood was a magic
it vanished with the work
sometimes in the
'The Little Things Destroy Us')
Thankfully the little things did not destroy this powerful, accomplished new
I'm less convinced by Marc Woodward's poems in his new pamphlet from the
resurrected Maquette Press. A Fright of Jays contains a number of what the back cover calls
'dark pastoral' poems, which about sums it up. They are well wrought enough,
if at times overworked, but the poems have little sense of surprise or
consideration of audience in them.
This, the start to 'The Nightshade at the Church House Inn', is an example of
what I mean:
Rain drips off the
as we laugh and light up
Or rather, they do.
I'm not here for the
but the camaraderie.
So what are you here for? And why am I, the reader, here? The poem does
little more than report further on the group's chat and drink, before moving
to an ending where a the colour of a mandolin gets compared to tobacco. Hmmm…
Sorry, these domestic poems and attempted epiphanies do little for me.
Fani Papageorgiou's second book from Shearsman is a much
more warmhearted and engaging volume, a kind of travelogue divided into four
sections, each full of untitled poems about place, love, longing and memory.
Papageorgiou has an eye for emotional detail, the way the body reacts to
touch or not being touched, the thoughts that flicker through the mind when a
lover does not call or says the wrong thing. How temperature, memory and
location affect engagement and desire:
So much of love depends
I will never forget you,
says the water.
Say to yourself,
you lose them anyway.
There is a fountain
in the middle of a
a cluster of Tasmanian
the smell of burnt wood.
Would this make you
You'll be broken open at
and you stand warned.
This is a poetry of accumulation, of echoes and asides, a very self-aware
poetry that exists in a heightened state, constantly questioning itself and
Is every desire a
Love grows from lust.
In the event of fire do
not use this lift.
If you want everything
to come together for a
do first everything that
You've got twenty-four
hours left in this town.
Twenty four hours will never be enough. Buy Not So Ill with You and Me so you have more time. Long may this poet wander,
linger and love.
© Rupert Loydell 2015