I've bought quite a few poetry books / pamphlets over the last couple of years so I thought it was about time I started reading them through systematically and blogging a little about them. So I'm going to start with Jon Stone's Scarecrow's pamphlet which is published by Happenstance.
Jon was one of the poets I was lucky enough to read with in Edinburgh the other week and I've really enjoyed reading his pamphlet.
Language-wise his poems are sheer pleasure. The first thing I enjoy about reading a poem is the words, regardless of meaning. Just the sound, the syllables, the rhymes, the visual explosions of letters. And, to be honest, I don't really know what half of his poems are about but they are laced with and energised by words and phrases that I wish that I'd thought of.
"Nuggets of Zingiber, fire-packed rhizomes"
"banish hag-rodeo! Bring that curio"
"get me that jake root,
that stick of mouth gelignite, brute tongue number"
"that woodknuckle jump-lead, that sting in a knock"
"the furious ting, with the jaggery,
crystals of dust and the bunch of nodules"
"splinter and splice in my trinket teeth"
Now I tell you that all of these phrases come from just One poem. It's no wonder that it was commended in last year's National Poetry Competition. It's called 'Jake Root' and you can read it here (fourth poem down).
The intensity and playfulness of language makes these poems exciting to read, this is what the blurb at the back of the pamplet says:
"This is a poet who knows precisely what he's doing, even when half-intoxicated by language and illusion: Doctor Who meets Jenny Greenteeth; Perkin Warbeck visits the same pub as Nick Drake. Prophecies, spells and lies begin to take on the nature of truth, as the Scarecrow looks up and walks...".
I admit most of the contemporary culture references of a twenty-something Londoner are lost on me, but the fact that I enjoyed these surreal, word-wild poems so much despite not 'getting' them just shows how good they are. Don't be misled by the weird and out-there subject matter and wordage, these poems are very technically aware and many of them are written in traditional form. I'll be interested to watch how Stone develops his writing in his future collection/s.
Here are some more of my favourite phrases/lines from various poems in the pamphlet:
"Pulse a bird's blink"
"A man whose head's been Morris-danced into bandages"
"His mouth / is a forge and his laugh is ironmongery"
"the night is hot and hot with the breath of Boy"
"beauty that would make a shambles of you!
"how I prefer to be a night operator, / clot of shadow"
"the stony clank of my strides"
"My mother's smile is a set of rubber kitchen knives"
"Egon is 'wolf-handsome', 'young', 'a talent'"
"who is this wastral, hook-spined, puppet-limbed"
I could go on and on but I might get done for copyright!