9 is aptly named: the integration of contributions from established
writers with the work of Norwich School of Art and Design graduates
and overseas students provides a rich and colourful poetic plumage.
its arrival as lush and pukka; the use of such contemporary
colloquialism is ironic as, on the whole, this collection rarely attempts
to subvert poetic conventions. This is a shame; there is clearly considerable
talent lurking within these pages. With fewer people reading poetry
and more attempting to write it, the genre is struggling to define its
position within literature and society as a whole. Therefore, there
is an urgent need to stretch boundaries in order to create work that
radiates originality both in style and content. Of course poetry will
always be subjective and some of the poems that succeed in Birdsuit
are those which revel in simplicity of form. Laura Hickies Going
Home is beautifully visual and displays an economy of words, which
serves to clarify the images and the rhythm. Unlike several other pieces
included it does not feel contrived this book is compelling in
the evidence it provides of young poets trying to hard to be poetic.
Few pieces are without worth but it is obvious that many contributors
are yet to establish their own voices; many seem to echo the animalistic
themes and diction of Ted Hughes. His influence as a respected Poet
Laureate is obvious it remains to be seen if Andrew Motion (champion
of the anyone can write poetry school of thought and here
providing a typically encouraging forward) will produce anything like
the same effect.
Other writers worth a mention include the American poet James Tate.
His poem Dream On manages to be both self-righteous (like
the 30s poetry of Betjeman and Auden he could be accused of intellectual
snobbery) but also insightful and humorous concerning modern life and
the absence of poetry. Restless Leg Syndrome is also refreshing
in its free form and prosaic language. The prize for the most effectively
bleak poem goes to Ian McHughs Undertow and
let's face it, who wants to read happy, joyful poetry these days anyway.
This piece is fairly disturbing in its imagery and in its jumps from
first to third person.
In short this book is brimming with potential. The juxtaposition of
stark and sometimes bizarre drawings with the text screams art
college although the cheese grater on page 69 is fantastic.
However, as Robert Graves notes there is no money in poetry; but
then there is no poetry in money either. Most volumes of poetry
might as well be locked in a disused cellar with a sign on the door
reading Nuclear Research Site:Do not enter they will
receive approximately the same amount of attention as they do after
publishing. So hopefully the writers of Birdsuit will continue to evolve
and develop their ideas without falling prey to disillusionment
whilst building their nests of obscurity.
Birdsuit 9 is published by Starwheel Press and edited by Andrea Holland.
Norwich School of Art & Design
St George St
Norwich NR3 1BB