Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Caboodle: Poetry by Karina Vidler, Gill McEvoy, Russell Jones, Kate Garrett, Angela Croft and Rafael Miguel Montes (published by Prole Books)

As Angela Readman starts in her foreword for this collective of poets, "It can be difficult to discover poetry sometimes, finding voices out side of our reading habits can be daunting. It can also be a struggle to be heard if you are a poet." Indeed, and there's no bigger distraction than the internet, however, what this cyber world has provided is a vehicle for writers and indie publishers to get their words heard, online and in print. Caboodle, published by Prole Books is dedicated to bringing together the works of the established and the up and coming poets, giving a platform to talent in a squeezed down mainstream publishing world that may not have been read for all sort of modern world publishing politics.

Here we have the collections of six poets, carefully selected and put together in one volume, Prole's main aim being to bring accessible poetry out into the wider world. It starts with Karina Vidler and Facing. Facing change, ageing, and family, noticing repetitive patterns, the joys and mistakes of being human and worrying and wondering at the future ahead. She brings together sadness at the loss of youth with humour, there's a lot of 'sagging' and 'drooping' in the lines, of fantasising about living that youth again, in almost a 'confessional' of the unspeakable. May I have an Arctic Monkey, please? With, "compass stuck at a juicy twenty-two", she ends with the line "Oh come here Alex Turner, want to learn a thing or two?' Mid-Life Folly she laughs at the crisis antics of those desperately clinging to younger people then with a self critical bump reveals,

"And then there's me, so seriously being creative,
looking the part in black patterned tights,
squeezing out poems like there's no tomorrow,
up my own arse about the need to write"

There's the fun and then there's the revelation that "-this human clawing for air and noise and light" manifests in different ways for different mid life follies. Invasion talks of the sudden transformation of a boy into a teenager, "so thin he had to eat the boy who used to live here" and Polite Notice shows how the patterns emerge as the words reveal a cautionary tale of a daughter's new boyfriend, "you've fetched up through our shared poor taste in men". There's a loneliness and wisdom in the poems, Sue's Boys talks of 'invisible woman' in a second marriage, all rather de Maurier's Rebecca. There's the laughs of an almost 'confessions of a cougar' to the tragedy of the title poem Facing, the facing up is to cancer as she tells of the crying being about pain, not death,

"You needed to tell me this. And we both
needed me to pretend to believe you".

Gill McEvoy contrasts with her collection Paw Prints of Light, a study of nature, life, fantastical possibilities and art with titles such as Klimt As A Tree, A Memory of Snakes, Dance of the Cranes and January Blues. 

There are universal themes, every day routine woven into verse of unexpected observation, Morning Routine starts with,

"Sun fractures the morning mist
with one sharp blow."

That tranquil awakening is shattered by life, by magpies, sirens and the frustration as an alarm clock rings on and what seems a vexation of lying next to someone who hits the 'snooze' button and lives eternally in the eleventh hour,

"When it stops he'll sink back
into sheet and pillow,
oversleep again.

It's almost like the routine courts a stagnancy and repetitive patterns until the next poem that goes into fairytale land with Souvenir and lines like,

"He did not bring her silly slippers made of glass,
he brought the latest painting he had done-" a merging of life, passion and fantasy worlds.

One of my favourites in this collection is Breakfast With Malice, most probably because I am a seasoned professional at bleary eyed bitter mornings. and After Sight Loss charts long ago memories of vision, remembering nature and oneself,

"You will
chart my body to me,
brighten the darkness
that I live in now."

Russell Jones with Our Terraced Hum is a much shorter contribution to the collection but fits so brilliantly contrasting with the rural images of the previous poets, bringing in the hum of urban life. I loved the nightlife of these poems, again because I am so nocturnal. The first two poems caught me instantly, Studio, 4 a.m,

"...Our terraced hum is an echo.
heard vicariously through the shadows."

The Flat Opposite reveals the futility of a husband gazing at a television as the woman sets up tea light candles, and reveals herself the goddess in her own bathroom to whoever may be onlooking,

"...She strips,
the small lights dancing on her skin, a blur
of dreams as she arches, lowers her hips,
breasts, her neck beneath the surface."


"He flicks through channels as though
he's never seen the goddess through my window."

There's a beauty, sadness and longing in this poem which is reflected in a later poem The Call, where emotional starvation simmers seductively yet the everyday just carries on around the pain.

Kate Garrett's The Names of Things Unseen seduced me instantly, there's a shadowy look upon relationships in this collection that reveals an uneasy darkness at the conventional things in life.  Dare I drop the 'f-bomb' but whether intentionally or not, there seems a feminist seasoning on these writings. Housesitting deals with belonging, guilt, intuition, wondering at intentions and the ghosts of the past. The root of  the word 'decadent' is 'decay' has a heavy loneliness, a need to hide but blocking out the gossiping walls, the tainted dent in the bed that holds memories of those before. I love the finality of the last verse, the dead end,

"My heart's heavy
thud presses my lips
shut; my eyes close
under the weight
of a dead response."

As with the word 'decadent' there's an examination of language and image that creates pictures and impressions of the human condition throughout Kate's poetry,  Changeling looks at meaning and weaves a tale of how to love even if you don't like, Echo House shows the nesting of a pregnant woman who is struggling to feather for her new born in the emptiness of her resounding home.

Portraiture critiques standard beauty norms, the model's disconnection of her true self from the viewfinder as the knots, the angles, the hardened desire of untruths of real beauty and art in the body leaves her, "downcast eyes drawn thick with black lines" and

"in a white face, a slash of scarlet lips
through wisps of hair; a strong
chin points to bound breasts. This image
isn't me. This woman is just a suggestion."

There's an imprisonment, a fakeness coupled with the viewfinders shallow need for suggestion; it reminded me in some ways of the famous quote for Hedy Lamarr  'Any girl can look glamorous, just stand still and look stupid' in that the woman is questioning the futile superficiality of it all. The collection spans parenthood, coupledom, the supernatural of girlhood in  Once more with feeling to the becoming of Earth in the Planning the crone that welcomes Death.

Angela's Croft's  Dancing with Chagall plays with language and vision appearing less stormy initially in comparison to the previous poets. As you are pulled in through her global shimmy, the themes of vulnerability, belonging and jealousy raise their heads above the parapet, teasing at a nights out with Bucks Fizz, unplanned pregnancy in Girl Running and my favourite Hanging Fire with it's insecurity, admiration, green eyed mimicry and despondency,

"I'd try it on every so often
to see if I could achieve the same allure
decided it looked better on the hanger
and leapt back into my jeans
when a guy from work phoned
to ask me round to supper."

It ends so well in a date where you want to cheer for her and her hanging fire,

"Didn't that girl who works with you
look frightful in that tawdry red dress?"

The colour red crops up time and again in her poetry, a warning of course that the calm waters are simmering with danger, 'the red wax' in Afternoon Post and more obviously in Red Tops that,

"Show the marks round your throat
tell them how he left you
beat you black and blue
flung the baby against the wall
nearly let you drown"

Angela's poems do leap from continent to continent and personally I gravitate to London ones, particularly Big Issue and Angel. 

Rafael Miguel Montes with Menu and as the title says, this collection talks of a menu of wanting to feed oneself, to comfort, to self loathe, to fill a hole, to go over a repeated pattern from childhood of 'starving' for something. Anatomical Boundaries documents the obsession and pain society has with weight, a baby's weight "a ten pound weight nay mother'd be happy to expel" to childhood where,

"My parents have kept souvenirs of my obesity,
a history of my fat.
Polaroids of me in my Batman underoos
open-mouthed snoring-
a forearm dug deep into a box of Count Chocula."

Gathering Crumbs The Next Morning shows the pain and power of Rafael's words in the first verse alone,

"The 2-minute video on WebMD
can't change the fact that this is fucked.
People aren't supposed to sleepwalk
night after night,
pulling packages from he pantry
and cramming cupcakes down their throat."

There's humour in these poems which cushion a serious issue of 'need' to fulfil oneself, so often morally judged as gluttony. The words weave together the complexities and addictions of vulnerability and how it so often was borne from childhood, the physical linking up with the mental and holistically impacting every waking moment, as 42 starts heartbreakingly,

"This Saturday my age matched my waistline, 42
my wife had a meltdown." as does Gymnauseum.

The emptiness each poem reveals is prevailing, Envelopes takes another angle on the wanting to 'feed' your emotional well being with ink,

"All that tat money.
All those empties.
All that searching for some permanent mark;
some powerful story to silently tell.

And on the table by the fridge.
All those unopened envelopes."

The poems cross over addiction and control and in a sometimes uncomfortable way reveal vulnerability and emptiness in whatever your particular addiction may be. It could be drink, sex, buying shoes or eating cake, but we all at times need to feed this emptiness and too often judged, it becomes out of control.

Caboodle is a collection of poets for everybody, it can be read cover to cover or dipped in and out of at will and as Angela Readman says in her foreword. "Dip into a smorgasbord of poetry". It is accessible and gives you a hunger to read more poetry...  very unlike my own English teacher who put it on a pedestal of unattainable and for only a few. I'm still annoyed with her about that. I wasted a lot of my younger years not reading or attempting to write poetry because of her words.


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