Sunday, 26 May 2013

Squeaky Clean Presses

Wonderland, by Fiona Sinclair. Indigo Dreams
Everything I thought I knew, by Jo Gibson. Calder Wood Press
The Year's Six Seasons, by Colin Will. Calder Wood Press.

Indigo Dreams, the poetry press run by Ronnie Goodyer is one of those smaller presses that comes out squeaky clean and with flags flying as against the vicissitudes and cutbacks affecting the higher profile poetry presses. Ronnie has an impressive backlist and is still introducing poets and printing second and in this case third collections by very good poets who are never described as “emerging” by the establishment, yet are able to develop their poetry and readerships helped by such presses as this one.
Wonderland is a catalogue of present day and largely urban incidents with close observation transformed into confident and sophisticated verse. All in an informal and eloquent post-beat style (no villanelles, no pentameters, no end rhymes), the style is cumulative and adds up to a very coherent book.
The blurb says Fiona Sinclair likes handbags, old movies and Fred Astaire – subjects that instantly bring to mind Deborah Tyler-Bennett, and there are touches of these subjects from the first poem on, but the people here are more everyday, confronted in their ordinary lives. In Time Traveller :

The girl on the Underground is a sartorial time traveller
yet there are no Sid James remarks from the suited men.

Fear of Letter Boxes will strike chords with anyone who has had problems via the post ( and who hasn't?)
“Sundays, strikes and snow, she is a school kid
whose bully has been excluded fro a few days.”

Among these perceptive small subjects, there are poems about jumble sales, lucky winnings on the horses, and also some very moving ones, such as Inherited Friend:

until her I don't want to be involved anymore
despite mother's boozy begging calls

and when she departed
the little dog smelt foppily of Chanel No.5

Then there's The Decorators have left for good which is both feminist and touching:

until at 50, she finds that her body has deducted every month
from the allocation of fecundity she thought infinite,
so Roberta and Oliver will always be fiction.

Many excellent and interesting poems in here, and they do translate an ordinary urban peopled world into a wonderland. Good title.

Another indefatigable small press, though not confined to poetry, is Calder Wood Press. Colin Will, the publisher, takes an interest in local poets. Jo Gibson, author of a new pamphlet Everything I Thought I Knew, was a founder member of Dunbar Writers Group and has had poems published in Scottish magazines. The language of her poetry is classically English.
The poems here are full of relationships: I and you, giving relevant detail without fully explaining the people. There are vignettes, as here, in Sitting :

You in your chair where, head bowed,
hair falls down while a waterfall
of words pitter-patter.

Me in my chair where, heavy-browed
frowns crumble while an ancient wall
of absurd resistance is un-wrought.

Many of the poems work by contrasts and similes, as in Lost :

as if I'll find you between the words
as if failure is a 'full stop'
as if our hopefulness is a rope
our fate a cliff face

Nothing is over-ambitious and everything works in these poems, and a 40 page pamphlet is a good way to present them.
Calder Wood Press allows strong participation by authors in the design of books. In this case the cover illustration, being a collage of family photos, seems to be the result of this participation, and to my mind, it is rather a mismatch to the book. Although very likely inspired by family, there is little explicitly about family in the text of the book. If anything this implies a lack of a wish on the poet's part to take poetry further afield.
Apart from this niggle, it's a nicely turned out pamphlet, well produced internally.

The other new poetry item from Calder Wood Press is Colin Will's own booklet The Year's Six Seasons. It is an extra to his full books (from red Squirrel and diehard).
It has an an agenda. The poems are local to his area, Dunbar, and it is intended for local sales. I'm all in favour of this approach to publication, books designed for readers. The poem are all vintage Colin Will, though all previously unpublished. Knowing Colin as I do, I see personal stories in some of them: the untitled I thought the sea would be...refers to his “retirement” move to Dunbar and his increasing busyness in poetry, gardening, family and other interests.

I thought the sea would be
a place to reflect,
and it is, but so much to do
leaves little time for quietness,
no space for silence.

I thought the sea would be
different from the place I left,
and it is, but hills and wood
are not too far for when I need them,
and friends are close.

Although not directly in Colin's usual style, this is a superb poem and my favourite. Nearly all the poems rely on a scholarly kind of description, as in this gardening poem, Adam's Way :

Straggly stems of goatsbeard
push between the cultivated flowers,
and self-sown foxgloves
erupt their surprising spires
in places that I didn't choose.

I pull out
only what I don't find interesting,
and welcome strangers
  • Herb Robert poppies, melon, toadflax –
  • not weeds, just bright-faced flowers.
The cover is a photograph of Dunbar, and the title recalls the poet's earlier title Seven Senses.

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