Thursday, March 06, 2008

Current Accounts 25: The Talent of Suzanne Richardson Harvey

This latest Bank Street Writers’ magazine contains something for everyone from fairly ‘standard’ poetry to absolutely exceptional verse, with two short stories and an essay.

Dealing first with the local writers, Martin Caplan’s two poems are preoccupied with time. The second poem talks of cancer treatment and the unlikelihood of a cure: Watching us wither from day to day…Divesting us of our persona / Along with our hair. A bleak prospect.

Next is Bill Kelly’s ‘ramble’, set as an assignment in 2007, a series of apocryphal, essay-related meanderings. Not the easiest topic to write about. Some of Bill’s deliberate false links are positively serpentine.

Ann Hendy’s The Hike is one of those poems that reward the more one reads them, moving from direct narrative into more powerful, personal territory, the land of bittersweet regret.

Pat Turner’s Wuthering The Storm, a visit to Bronte country, is travel poetry with a difference and a killer last line. A very different piece is Joyce Neil’s Whispers, a fine poem of personification. Raymond Dean’s Ruthlessness in Nature is a witty piece. Raymond is better than most at rhyming, endstopped poetry and never fails to entertain. Tony McNeile’s Lost Freedom turns out to be not what you first thought and works on many levels.

Neville Southern is one of the best storytellers in the group: his One Short Sleep Past is a brief, eerie tale which should not be read last thing at night.

Three very different poems based on the group’s visit to The Lowry are next: Phil Smith’s He Should Talk sums up well Lowry’s affect on those who knew the places and faces he painted:He paints rubbish; looks inside your head. / Tells you what you were. Bill Brierley’s typically terse and brisk On The Good Ship Lowry refers to the design of the building, whilst Raymond’s A Lowri Painting has a clever, whimsical final couplet.

The rest of the magazine contains work from outside the group and this time includes the best in the anthology. Ian Grey’s No Flowers For Lizzie Bolden, Mike Gwynne’s Silver Anniversary and Marguerite Haywood’s The Deciding Words were for me the best of the U.K. poetry whilst David McVey’s short story Pigs at Dawn was eminently readable and enjoyable.

Out of the contributions from abroad, the one outstanding poet for me was Suzanne Richardson Harvey from California, whose two poems Over The Edge and Sonnet For An Unconceived Child exhibited a great grasp of imagery, movement and that finished, professional tone that is so hard to achieve. Particularly well-written. I will certainly read more of her work.

I liked almost all of the other American poems, though the odd one, whilst no doubt written in all sincerity, came across as a little pretentious. The one Australian poem, Found Art, was very good but the (maybe deliberately) excessive alliteration spoiled it for me. From India, Arun Gaur’s Small Places was a beautiful piece, reminding me of many works from India that hark back to a traditional poetry of repetition. The one Canadian entry, Joanna Weston’s Morning Reflected, had a sparse, economical beauty that is hard to convey.

Mindy Abu Barad’s Another Ocean III was a bit flat for me personally – I prefer some sort of imagery to connect with – but of course different readers will relate differently to this. Again, the poem works on more than one level besides the obvious one of diaspora.

To get into print in the non-group section of Current Accounts is a great achievement as there are always very many writers who send in work and we all know that rejection can be disappointing.

F James Hartnell