Eight Excursions by David Kennedy & Rupert Loydell
[38pp, £5.00 ,Cherry on the Top Press, 29 Vickers Road, Firth Park, Sheffield
Collaborative poems risk being more fun to write than read. The novelty of
particular joint ventures may come to be a de facto resting point, after
which all too little happens. Neither of these is the case with Eight
Excursions. This series of eight
pieces, all steeped in the theme of transit, launches a new and welcome presence:
the fusion of David Kennedy and Rupert Loydell. The writers have structured
their project, provided a compelling focus, and written excellently to observe
and tease open the boundaries they have set.
The poems in Eight Excursions are at once witty, taut, direct, and engaging. Sprigs
of source material as various as ‘anonymous company minutes: found in the
street by DK’, an email from Chris Cheek, passages from known and less well-known
books, and the intriguing website, ‘Organization for the Advancement of Facial
Hair’, surface in repeated contexts within a theme-and-variations motif.
The source materials provide one means of locating seemingly found subjects
close to a writer’s heart: solitude, place hopping, and the writing process
itself. Writing and the self are permitted to be primary subjects without ìtaking
over. Placed as they are within the fast-paced passages, they contribute
to suspense, rare in a book of poetry. The interstices between small arrivals
and the lure of what will happen paces and pulses each of the poems forward.
The eight pieces of this chapbook fit a frame of pleasure travel, possibly
at reduced rates. The cover of the book is a photocopy of an actual ticket
from the Sheffield Transport Dept. and Joint Omnibus Committee. Within the
pages themselves, one is admonished: ‘Never judge a cover by the book.’ Each
poem brilliantly reflects that travel theme, allowing in and even celebrating
the ironies of shifting and growing within the chance arrangements discovered
therein. Early in ‘Damage Limitation’, comes the sentence: ‘The reader /
may initially find this work / too declarative and back off // in a hurry,
but persistence / is rewarded with irony / and strange music in the mix.’
Rewarded, indeed. Such short, pointed lines invite immediate access, and
trick the reader into deceptively painless discoveries. Self-consciousness
simultaneously embraces comedy and difficult truths. The book’s intelligence
would not allow wallowing in a poverty of spirit, recognizing intelligence
as a means of rescue. In ‘Seasonal Changes’:
Itís difficult in this day and age
trying to locate Bohemia;
not much easier finding the beach
thatís been washed away by memory.
I’m struggling to grow a beard
and now wondering how to trim it,
have travelled forward in time
to some kind of paid employment.
One of the most engaging patterns of the book is its almost transparent rendering
of travel as a metaphor for the artist’s life. The position from which a
maker of poems experiences life is one of slight distanced from events one
integrates. That distance flavors the potential for shaping and integrating
experience from a view that is fluent in humor, large-scale perspective,
and dark discovery that prevents any unduly lofty suppositions about the
writing life. ‘Young people are not the answer, / though they will be in
Another of the attractive features of this work is its seemingly effortless
movement among surfaces, its mixing of dimensions, while offering ample evidence
of the faint light between reality and fantasy. In ‘A Self-Repairing Dream’,
an especially memorable sequence moves through this veil quietly:
I started up the garden path to work
and got chatting to the downhill neighbour.
He decreates times, slows everything down,
turns the days turtle: now I’m back here
at home, snacking through the spellcheck.
Rupert Loydell becomes Repeat Loyal,
which becomes ‘I’m just obeying orders’
The voice of the collaborative entity is graceful and sharp, a self-aware
and self-effacing comedic philosopher with a full sense of history. Reading
this collection interests me, prompts me to request more and to trust in
this new presence, hoping for more discovery filtered through this composite
and brilliant being!