The Autumn Myth [ePub]

by Joel Lane

came this morning from amazon. Again I won't be able to review this book without bias as he is in my writer's group and has been a good friend of mine for many years.

I'm not sure of myself with poetry, not reading much of it, but I liked these, seemingly straight and sharp poems, darts hitting the bullseye:

RED BASTARDS
Go in early, get it done and leave
We've been worried about this estate
at the Northern corner of the city,
but it's an incandescent Sunday morning

and the glow reflects from the concrete
to print our skins with unity.

The group post copies of their left wing leaflet, but get chased off:

the gob of spit on the car window
still gleaming as we left the district,
our voices rising above the situation
while the fear waited down below

to unfold its many legs and crawl
up into my chest, an insect larva
already at an awkward age,
impossible to evict or live with.

So what was a straightforward piece about confronting political hostility turns into something uncanny, monster like, and many of the poems follow that pattern, observations of the real turn to the more abstract inner fears (and sometimes hopes) often represented embematically by a creature or a bird or an abstract force. I'm not sure I always like the ends, sometimes I think they take away the force of what has gone before, eg in this brutal and beautiful whole poem:

THE RITUALS
Not every night, or every weekend,
but now and then without warning
he twisted her arm behind her back

and beat her naked body with his belt
until her blood stained the duvet
And afterwards, he held her still

and stroked her diminished face,
kissed the blue-black runes that stood
like Braille on her damp skin,

matched her breathing with his own
and quietened his own terror in her.
They had two children, both madness.

As I say, I am extrememly biased. A lot of these poems address issues in Joel's family and personal - as well as his political - life and take on extra layers of meaning and subtleties for me, and it is impossible to untangle all that. The extract below for example is about a mutual friend and fellow member of our writers' group who died in 2005:

THE LISTENER
for Godfrey Featherstone

He grew quieter in the last years,
walking slowly, the card of pain
kept hidden close to his chest;

drawing energy from stillness,
words chilled below zero to keep
their message clear and hard.

He knew the page was an instrument
for the hands and the breath..

I'll leave it there I think as I am in danger of just writing all the poems out.

20.09.2012

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