Thursday, March 23, 2017

big avant-garde poetry books

Tim Allen's Copyright, front jacket

In the ecosystem of my life big poetry books lead an especially precarious existence. I seem to move house about once a year, usually into smaller digs, and with each year I more eagerly anticipate the breaking of the chrysalis into a fully mobile travelling lifestyle with no encumbrance of "things" at all.

And I suppose I'm only in the vanguard of social changes that we all feel to some extent. Our possessions are becoming digitized, we are most relaxed not in our own homes but in coffee bars, and we carry our passports.

So it is that, along with much other lumber, I'm sadly having to say goodbye to these two big books by Tim Allen, books that I've hardly opened until today.  I'll be carrying the miniscule though brilliant Default Soul into my next life, but that may be all.

Copyright or (c)  (Dept Press, 2013) , once delved into, isn't really all that different from Default Soul, just more of Tim's endlessly curious and good-natured investigation of the world. I don't know whether it's because I'm currently doing a TEFL course, but some of the lines now seem even funnier than they did before (Tim is a primary school teacher).

The phrases I like best are the ones where the reader feels a vague semantic or logical discomfort, just begging to be teased out. E.g. (from the pages shown below)

"an assortment of negatives"

"i match tear to paper"

"i need a dark to see stars through" (p.10)

"i warm up on the ice" (p. 12) 

and so on...

first page of Tim Allen's  Copyright

"homeless builder and purpose crazy" (p. 8) -- evidently Tim's comment on my lifestyle.

Another page of Copyright

Tim Allen's Copyright, rear jacket

List of other books, from Tim Allen's Copyright.  

That is to say, a list of books by people called Tim Allen. I think these are bona fide books, at least I've just looked up The Lost Abbey of Abingdon (2011) and that one's real enough. Did you know that Abingdon Abbey was about the size of Wells Cathedral?  Despite this, as soon as the titles are detached and brought into Tim's list they start to feel irresistibly comic and strange. "Strange Way to Save the World"..... utterly bizarre.....  "Queuing Theory".... hmm, intriguing.... "The Lost Abbey of Abingdon"...  oh dear, where can it have got to? As for his own books, the list of course misses the most recent ones, including my fave Default Soul and also the book that I'm about to mention, Tattered by Magnets.

Tim Allen's Tattered by Magnets, front jacket

The poetical enjoyment of Copyright is a relatively pure contact with the words. Tattered by Magnets (KFS, 2014) is quite a lot more intricate, because it weaves the verbal material into beautiful stanzaic forms --- and consequently, is rather more resistant to being sampled by a page or two.

But for what it's worth, here they are.

Tim Allen's Tattered by Magnets, first page

"the exiting cathedral?" (2.2). I suppose that must be a comment on Abingdon Abbey.

Tim Allen's Tattered by Magnets, another page

There's a lot of interacting ingredients here and some of them I haven't particularly noticed in Tim's earlier work. Like this sort of landscape painting in the first line of 1.3:

arc             smile    limb   mile   lime   acre

Or the way the rest of the poem yearns towards another sound, (via lido, bimbo and Beano  -- "air hostess's complimentary Beano")  before finally converting the lime into limbo.

My admiration for Tim's inventiveness could hardly have been much greater, but repeatedly on leafing through Tattered by Magnets I catch myself thinking: I didn't know he could do this... 

My main essay on Tim Allen's poetry is here:



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