13 June 2009

Review of My Iron Spine in NZ Books

Been pretty busy lately - it's been birthday season at our house, among other things, and we spent the first bit of last week over in Martinborough (we stayed here, at the Grape and Olive - I recommend it). I haven't been posting much lately, and have quite a back log of things to blog about, so will probably do a burst of short posts.

This post is actually supposed to be about the review of My Iron Spine in NZ Books. I learned about the review on Thursday, when I found a photocopy of it in my pigeon hole at work, for which I have our lovely librarian to thank – thanks Fran!

To be honest, I wasn't expecting a review from NZ Books, they don't review a lot of poetry – at least not from the smaller presses – so I'm delighted to have been reviewed at all – even though I'm not that excited about the review itself.

Emma Neale reviews My Iron Spine along with Museum of Lost Days by Raewyn Alexander, Beauty of the Badlands by Cliff Fell, and Get Some by Sonja Yelich. To be honest, I'm not sure she likes any of our books that much. She decides at the beginning to talk about us all as lyric poets, which I don't think she means to be a kind of patronising insult: 'lyric poetry persists as an attractive poetic form, despite the intellectually energising innovations of the avant-garde'. I guess one tends not to categorise oneself that much, but I've never thought of myself as a lyric poet. Perhaps I am. Who knows. I always thought of lyric poems as short poems about oneself, and it's true that I do write those sometimes. But most of this book in particular is long poems about other people.

Nevertheless, she does like some of my poems, particularly 'Eleven Fragments of God', which she says has a cleansing honesty; and 'Sylvia Fights off the Boys':

The emphatic repetition of the phrase "and the truth of it is" obliquely comments on the slipperiness of identity and an artist's masks, and meaning is approached in a more subtle, sidewinding manner...

Have to admit, I was a bit miffed that she said 'there isn't much obvious sensuous orality' in my language - not that I'm entirely sure what she means. It might not do it for her, but there are some phrases in these poems that I delight in reading out loud. Some of my favs are:
  • Winter moves from grey / to black and back to grey / She sleeps all day, gets up for dinner / watches telly, weeps and sleeps again
  • 'Lace me up tight Marie / tightly tighter’ / My sturdy backbone/my iron spine
  • she wrapped me, laced me /in numbers, equations /like a whale-bone corset / to keep my back / straight, my spine aligned /and threaded through my mind / little lines of logic / a program for equilibrium
  • then a turn — a return / to her desk in her room / her almost whole world / Her room, an embrace / an encasement /her blanket, her box /her shelter at the top of the stairs /Rafters and panels / a corset, a comfort.
(Hmm, I see now that there is a very obvious similarity in theme to those bits I like..., but they sound beautiful out loud, promise.)

Anyway, I don't mean to sound ungrateful, I'm pretty happy when people pay attention to my work at all, and I've very much appreciated all the good feedback from people about this book who get what I'm trying to do, and respond to that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, reviewers, hmmm. I think when they review a bunch they like to get a theme going and squish things into boxes they may not belong in for the sake of a tidy review.
It would be interesting to hear what sensuous orality she does like is she thinking michelle leggott or...
You've got to be sure of what you do and why you do it, no point trying to be avant-garde if it isn't you.