Beyond the Tune

Jayne Stanton’s Beyond the Tune (Soundswrite Press) is a beautifully presented, and written, pamphlet that I have dipped in and out of over several months. Each re-reading brings new connections with these evocative and atmospheric poems.

The vivid sensual details of the first half of the pamphlet bring a whole era to life, with subtly startling yet apt memorable lines, such as “tannin, bitter through the Tate & Lyle scree”.

Not all stories from the era are sweet though, a darker side revealed in the hauntingly beautiful poems of the second half that gradually bring us back through poems that could be then or now to the present day and then the present day looking back, linking us again to the pamphlet’s opening.

From “my spine | a river of running quavers that stick | to the soles of my sensible shoes” (Sin É) back to “ re-set your body clock to seal a time line” (Grace Notes), and then immersed again in a constant invitation to “Slip beyond the tune.” (Grace Notes)

Queen, Jewel, Mistress

If history lessons at school had been anything like Ruth Stacey’s Queen, Jewel, Mistress: A History of the Queens of England & Great Britain In Verse (Eyewear), then I’d have paid better attention.

I know Ruth, she’s a good friend and I love her work. This collection demonstrates why. Each queen is a given a distinct voice, in poems that take a range of poetry forms and styles befitting their time. They’re women’s viewpoints, but the worlds they belong to and are set in mostly men’s; its depiction therefore unconfined. The imagery is wide-ranging: nature, animals, birds, blood, war, lust, secrecy, politics, violence and the hidden messages of nursery rhyme.

The poems are full of memorable lines and metaphors. Some of the poems are thoughtscapes, others landscapes. Some carry a narrative, others spark against each other to create a bigger story. All of them are very human, and very much recommended.

Steps

Mark Goodwin’s Steps (Longbarrow Press) is one of those beautiful collections that somehow manages the feat of being in constant movement (word play, riff, layout) while also capturing the stillness of each precisely observed moment and creating a sculpture of words on the page.

These are poems of all the senses alert and voiced, with energy in the lay-out, punctuation and varying line lengths to create pieces that are quietly adventurous and daring, and always uncluttered.

The collection ‘Steps’ into a range of landscapes, many in the U.K. but also across the world. These aren’t unpeopled places though. There is the child carried on the walker’s back, hands ‘like clinging stars’, those met along the way, those exploring a walk with Goodwin. In an Africa-set poem, also an acute awareness of the less-privileged.
All of the poems are alive with beautifully stunning but entirely unfussy or unforced images. As a reader, each one is like turning a corner on a path to come across something most unexpected but breath-taking.

Everything about this collection feels accomplished. When Goodwin pulls out words for a parallel text or breaks up words into their parts, it is not a disintegration but an opening of new possibilities and connections, a highlighting of things we might overlook, a focussing of attention on language’s full power when not taken too much for granted.
One of the longer piece in the collection ‘From a St Juliot to Beyond a Beeny’ exemplifies this and the overall collection’s feat of realising a world in which the walk is a poem, the poem a walk, and everything else found within. This 71-page piece is simultaneously a nature poem, a love poem, a subtly philosophical/spiritual poem (in the simple but effective use of the indefinite determiner before pronouns and proper nouns – as seen in the poem title) and has elements of found poetry too, all interweaved as naturally as breathing.

A very beautiful and enjoyable collection to read.

OTHER SNIPPETS OF NEWS:

Just received my copy of The Poetry of Staffordshire, a beautiful anthology from Offa’s Press, including my poem ‘Slipping’.