Thursday, June 12, 2008

I recently ordered another Happenstance publication this time by the Scottish poet Andrew Philip. His chapbook Tonguefire is actually sold out on the website but Happenstance have brought out a sampler pamphlet of his poems which I ordered from the poet himself. The pamphlet contains nine pages worth of poems, five of which are devoted to his long poem, and title of his chapbook, Tonguefire.

Tonguefire is a rather strange and image-rich poem with a prophetic, almost visionary, feel to it. The poem takes us into the world of a guy named MacAdam, which I guess is a kind of universal man i.e son of Adam. He’s the kind of man who ‘buys firelighters and matches / cheap beer and lifestyle magazines’, who ‘…sits alone / in the dark with a single malt’ but who mysteriously finds in his compost heap ‘a baby made of glass’ and on his door step ‘a small, delicate book of songs / bound in white heather’, ‘MacAdam swallows the book of songs’. I enjoy the interchange of the odd scots word which appears throughout, for example where MacAdam holds the ‘bairn / in his guddle of arms’. I’m not entirely sure of the meaning of the poem, I’m guessing it has several meanings. The achievement here, for me, is the successful bringing together of the very ordinary with something very extraordinary, other-worldly.

The rest of the pamphlet consists of six further poems, heart-breakingly, about the loss of the poet's first-born son which, in all honesty, I find hard to read because of their subject-matter. In saying that, I’m very impressed with the level of control with which they are written and which makes them the powerful and hard-hitting poems that they are - ‘this is the hand that cradled your cold feet’ (Lullaby), ‘one was gone from us / and one had not yet come to us’ (Dream Family Holiday).
These poems are unlike most of the poems I read these days, there is something very different and at times uncomfortable about them which certainly makes them stand out and difficult to forget. All-in-all these are beautifully written, down-to-earth yet evocative of something supernatural.

9 comments:

Roxana said...

I understand what you mean, by "hard to read". do you know kenzaburo oe? I couldn't read his novels related to his experience as the father of a disabled son. but I can imagine how important it has to be for the author to write about something so deeply personal and painful like this, a way to understand and transcend the impossible experience, to make it somehow "livable".

Sorlil said...

hi roxana, no I'm afraid I've not heard of kenzaburo oe. some things are just too close to the bone but it takes a great deal of skill to write about such a painful experience in a meaningful and controlled way which I admire.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Thank you very much for the comment on my post about the exams and the Italian school system, it is indeed dreadful and I can't find a way to do something effective apart from writing poems, in Italian just denouncing seriously the rottenness of our public education system sounds hopeless, one gets entangled immediately in a bramble of words and at the end realizes he is not listened to really by anybody but only just "heard"...
So writing poems, and in English, is my only way of escape.
Thank you again,
Davide

Jackie said...

Thanks for your comment on Glasgow DP :) I think I have quite a few ex-Glasgow Uni students looking at the site (though not many from Strathclyde, lol). Glad you're enjoying the blog.

Dave King said...

You've definitely whetted my appetite.

ROSA E OLIVIER said...

Piú giú, in fondo alla Tuscolana...
!?...passavo per un saluto!

Sorlil said...

hi davide, well at least it not all bad - it's inspiring you to write poems!!

hi jackie, yes it's nice to see the old place, once in a blue moon I pop up to the uni and nostalgically sit in the adam smith common room drinking coffee machine coffee - sad eh?!

hi dave - check out andy's blog - he's got links to some of his poems on it and details of how to get a copy of the sampler.

hi rosa - I'm sorry I don't know spanish (?), thanks for dropping by

Sorlil said...

lol rosa, I see you're Italian, just shows how bad with languages I am!

Andrew Philip said...

Many thanks for the write-up. It's the sampler's first review! You can now buy the pamphlet through the HappenStance website: the page is here. And look here for some big news on publication!