Things I’m Reading Thursday #4
Sorry for the lack of TiRT post last week… Other Stuff got in the way, as is often the case. I have been nosy to hear about your escapades in the land of literature though, so please do let me know how your own reading is going in the comments box!
Various poetry books
The past two weeks I have been dipping in and out of a variety of poetry books in search of inspiration. First up, Sharon Olds’ Satan Says, her first collection, published in 1980 (I think). It’s an absolutely gorgeous book with its glossy red cover, and for some reason it came wrapped in cellophane which made it even more exciting. And of course it is full of the usual no-nonsense, straight-talking, thought-provoking and awesome stuff I’ve come to expect from Ms Olds. However, reading it I could feel that this was her first collection — the poems feel just ever so slightly less assured than her later work. I absolutely love her collection The Unswept Room, and think by this point (2003) she’d really grown into her voice. Satan Says feels just a little tentative… but that adds something new that I’d never before encountered in Olds’ poetry. Normally she’s so commanding, so sure of herself, so it was surprising and pleasant to glimpse a little something different. I am also in love with whatever typeface is used for the book’s “chapter” headings — if anyone has a copy and could tell me what it is, I’d be eternally grateful!
Next up is Samantha Wynne Rhydderch and her collection Not In These Shoes. I desperately wanted to like these poems, I really really really did. So many of them started off on a lovely trajectory, but I found so many times that I reached the end of them feeling a little disappointed, I’m afraid. Rhydderch has some truly fabulous ideas — you know, the kinds of ideas you curse yourself for not having thought of first — and every so often she’ll execute one to absolute perfection (her poem ‘Oyster Forks,’ for example, which was my firm favourite of the lot). However, all too often I was left thinking “yes, but what about…?” or “I wouldn’t have said it was like that, exactly…” Basically, I was often left wanting more at the end of a poem. Maybe this is Rhydderch’s trick? I kept reading after all. But I was left dissatisfied. I think it might have something to do with the language in these poems — it seems to want to be lush, poetic, unusual, original… but it’s almost as if Rhydderch is holding back for fear of going OTT. There are odd little phrases that are just delicious, really inventive — but they’re buried in the middle of an otherwise sparse and bland stanza, often. I can appreciate poets who don’t believe in linguistic fireworks and like to just say what they mean — Sharon Olds often takes this line, in fact. But Rhydderch’s pieces seemed to fall into an uncomfortable gap between the two extremes. As you can probably tell, I am still a bit bemused by it… I think it will be one of those collections I come back to and suddenly “get” at a later date. I hope so anyway.
And finally, there’s Paul Farley’s Tramp In Flames. I bought two Paul Farley collections last summer — this one and The Boy From The Chemist Is Here To See You — and I’ve been deliberately saving them because I knew they’d be damn awesome. And they are, if the first quarter of Tramp In Flames is anything to go by. Farley has an uncanny way of describing ordainary things; he really can make you see the everyday in a totally new way, which is a rare and special talent. “Rain thick as diesel slicking the windows” is a line from The Front, the first poem of the collection — at about this line I new I was onto a winner with this book. That poem is really brilliant actually — Farley turns a cloud into a gunship, a giant bird’s nest, a geological phenomenon… it’s awesome, in the true sense of the word! I haven’t read many of the other pieces as I’m savouring this one, but I can tell already I’m going to really love Farley’s stuff.
OK, now you! Tell me what you’ve been poring over and perusing this past week! Also, I know I need to announce the Lianne Strauss giveaway winner… I’ll do it asap! Watch this space!
Tags: advice for young writers, not in these shoes, paul farley, publishing, resources for young writers, samantha wynne rhydderch, satan says, sharon olds, Things I'm Reading Thursday, tramp in flames, young poets