martedì 19 marzo 2013
Bad Machine – George Szirtes – Bloodaxe – 2013 This is not a review. I am not really qualified to do reviews. It is merely a set of thoughts and responses to a first reading of Mr. Szirtes’ lastest book. Szirtes is rather like a Master of Ceremonies, present everywhere, more or less intrusively: “You don’t like this one, well, try this, it may be more to your liking. No? Too jaunty? Here’s a dirge. Don’t like free verse? This one rhymes.” There’s a conjuring act going on with rabbits popping out and every expectation that Tommy Cooper will appear “just like that”. I mean this very affectionately. There is real inventiveness here, in abundance. And a lot of hard graft and craft. Bad Machine itself is based on a scheme repeated in several other poems: certain words are repeated endlessly, in a rather shamanic way, to create a kind of chant, spell or charm. Rhyming these sets of words (“blow” as in air or impact or setback, etc.) creates a dirge-like tone that is generally very appropriate to the subject matter. The graft and craft lies in the fact that this is hardly ever tedious: the beauty is that the same word has many different meanings that are exploited to the full in the rhyme pattern. The rhyme emphasises the different meanings and this ensures constant shifts in perspective and even surprises when an unusual one comes to the fore. The craft and graft also lies in easily worn scholarship. I found strong echoes of MacNeice, who equally and always sought new and different verse forms, rhymes and patterns. Certain audacious rhymes inevitably bring Byron to mind (settle us-nautilus), or the flexible, loose sonnets of Walcott in White Egrets. (These are my responses and not necessarily Szirtes’ influences). Szirtes also has something to say. Commentary on modern life (the London riots given a jolly outing in a ballad style that delightfully contrasts the serious business going on), personal reflections and philosophical argumentation. There is depth without being obscure, a joy in language and fullness of life that at last shows that poetry can be beautiful and still deal sincerely with ugly issues. A fine balancing trick where even the occasional failure (as in MacNeice) only goes to show how good all the rest really is. Definitely on my re-reading list soon.