Things I’m Reading Thursday #27

Peacock Blue Envelopes

I have a confession to make: I’m a terrible collector and a terrible hoarder. My sister, who is also my flatmate, once told me that my bedroom “looks like a junk shop.” I’m ashamed to say that she’s right. I have particular weaknesses for typewriters (duh), vinyl records and er, jewellery… but by far the worst is my weakness for books.
Lovely Boyfriend is also a bookworm, but he has far more restraint. He finds it hilarious that I literally cannot enter a bookstore without finding something that I want to buy. For me, there is no such thing as browsing or window shopping. I always, always buy. It’s bad.

Fortunately though, I am picky. I won’t just buy any old rubbish, and I’ll spend hours in the poetry section thumbing through volumes until I find one that really appeals – then I have to have it. If I don’t find anything in the poetry section, I’ll move onto Gender/Women’s Studies, then Literary Criticism, and then Prose.

My most recent purchase didn’t take me long to find, though – it practically leapt off the shelf of Oxfam books’ poetry section and demanded to be bought. It was and is John Stammers’ brilliant second collection, Stolen Love Behaviour, and it was a purchase I’m really pleased to have made.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t really aware of Stammers’ work until this point. I am friends with him on Facebook and have been for a while (!) but that was as far as my knowledge of him went (I know, I know, I am a web generation fashion victim, I’m sorry). However, it was enough for something to chime with me in the bookstore and that in turn was enough to make me pick up the book and have a nosey.

I have now read it cover to cover, and loved it – Stammers walks the line between being accessible and being ‘difficult’ with true panache. His poems are searingly original – literally, unlike anything I’ve ever read – and his language is vivid, varied and unashamed. It’s a long time since I’ve seen a poet use the word ‘c*nt’ so effectively, for example. I have just been blown away by the incredible imagery and the truly imaginative turns of phrase in so many of these poems. Rather than waffling, I’ll post some of my favourite lines below, and let you make up your own minds.

This is by no means the kind of poetry you come across every day, but it’s all the more worth reading for that. Check it out here.

“The first drops of rain detonate on the flagstones.
I beg your pardon, go outside to see the roses.
Look, don’t they remind you of something?”

— from Rosegarden

“Sometimes I see the open window:
in the variegated light that can occur in a room,
in cloud shapes observable after rain,
or when I talk with you of what you will come to do.”

– from Younger

“snowbound in the elbow of the big Columbia River;
heading west by night so as to stay unnoticed;
the ringing of the wires, the country songs of the truck drivers.”

— from Three Chüeh-Chü: Recalling Former Travels

“The intricate needlework on your boots
twinkles like pinpricks in black card
and the liquefaction
of your demin bolero
as it sidles to a bluegrass waltz
hits me over the heart like a high-calibre round.”

– from Prarie Rose

“A voided gin bottle, its final smear in your tumbler,
informs your blowsy mouth with its juniper come-ons.”

– from Why

What are you reading this week?


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2 Responses to “Things I’m Reading Thursday #27”

  1. Richard Russeth Says:

    Thanks for introducing me to Stammers. I had not heard of his work but after reading your column a bit of research on the net has me looking for him. Amazon does not carry him in the States, if you can believe. The quest begins. Thanks again.

  2. Catherine Says:

    Completely and utterly guilty of the collecting habit, too. My vices are vintage housewares & OLD BOOKS (little globe-shaped mugs, glass birds, disembodied Buddha heads, Gram’s old collection of occult books, etc.) It’s a constant struggle, but I figure someday we’ll have a house that resembles a curiosity shoppe, so… I’m becoming okay with it. :)