Drowning up the Blue End
116 pages here so it costs you a quid
more than London Visions which
boasts a mere 98... If it has been a hard week and you have to decide between
the two then pay the extra money; it's worth the investment.
There is nothing whatsoever written on the rear cover of Drowning
up the Blue End except the cover price.
No anonymous scribble imploring you to read the contents or extolling with
vast hyperbole the genius of the poet. I like that; it could (and should)
catch on. It immediately warmed me to whoever made the bold decision. I'm
also delighted to say that Bluechrome, in this collection anyway, have
abandoned their appalling habit of using obscure fonts for poem titles.
Before even beginning to read this collection therefore I was a happy, happy
But there was a blurb that came with this review copy and in it I was
informed that Siriol Troup 'began writing poetry in 2001'. Makes you sick
doesn't it? Here's me slaving away for close to thirty years and Ms Troup
throws together her first collection of poems and I feel like packing it all
in. Why? Because these are so very good that's why! OK. She is one of those people who can't even be bothered
to clean up her dog-crap; 'You tug the lead, kick leaves/ over the shit'... but
her poetry has left me in magnanimous mood so I'll forgive her this
antisocial inclination, even allow that the 'You' referred to in this
particular poem is someone of whom she disapproves.
In her poem 'Bridge' she reflects on the 'drowning' which forms the
Look at the black water racing
full as a barrel
It will be
like falling asleep,
wet hair rippling,
seduction of dreams
words used up -
spring, self, blackbird, happiness.
How she wrapped them in bombazine,
to the river's edge,
Phrases like 'The river full as a barrel' and 'The slippered seduction of
dreams' roll lazily of the tongue when you read the poem aloud, and that
word, 'bombazine' hurls me back to Dylan's 'Under Milk Wood' wherein the
Chapel itself is wrapped in 'bombazine black', the traditional mourning
weeds, mourning in Troup's poem for words that are now 'used up'; 'Spring,
self, blackbird, happiness.' And she ends
the poem with a throat tightening explanation as to why the suicide may
happen; 'If she has to give reasons/ then this:/ the burden of sunrise.' How
better to explain the absurdity and the sheer nihilism of self-destruction?
'the burden of sunrise'... yes.
And then there is the care and poetic-labour that has gone into Ms Troup's
choice of words and phrases. She speaks of; 'The liquefaction / of a cotton
dress.', 'youth as a rugby pitch / with death as referee.', 'the brain's /
radiating honeycomb.' and of a room which 'stiffens into silence'. and of
words juxtaposed for provocative effect, words like 'a tempered gale' or
'feathery scales'. These are phrases that make me pause, make me roll them on
my tongue and savour them languidly and with relish.
There are expansive poems which reveal the poet's compassion (as in
'Aberfan'), poetic vision (as in the section labelled 'Half-Life') and
throughout the complete collection a continuous feeling that Ms Troup
actually loves words, loves to carefully arrange them to resonate music to the
I will return to this collection and I will be on the look out for more of Ms
Troup's evocative explorations of situations, places, people and the poetic
form, she is an artist with a total grasp of the craft of poetry and this
collection is, on the whole, a delight.
Just 98 pages and again, no rear cover
blurb... BUT a rear cover poem, and what's more it's entirely typeset in some
pointless wobbly obscure font! Ugh! What is the point Bluechrome? And what is
the point of setting the poem titles in this same wobbly font? Does it add to
the aesthetics or did someone towards the end of a Friday editorial board
meeting at Bluechrome just joke; 'Why not set the titles in a silly and
pointless font?' and the remark somehow found its way into the minutes?
Anyway; to the poetry of Mr Oxley. I was an apprentice mason when young (the
kind who works with stone not the kind who practice funny handshakes and
bribe Judges), I had to serve five years in order to learn a complex craft.
If poetry is a craft then maybe there should be a compulsory five year period
in which the person desirous of earning the title 'Poet' can at least learn
the rudiments of the craft. Mr Oxley for one might benefit from a course, for
example, in rhyme. This poem, 'Shadowy Babylons', might then never have been
The Thames is
a river that
make golden blend
London and the sea
wall-talk of another world
'normal' never knows
I will presume that most of the people reading this review are poets,
potential readers or critics and therefore do not really need me to point out
where this piece is going wrong. But I will anyway. The rhyme is too obvious;
breathes-deceives, End-blend, sea-graffiti and shadows-knows, it is as if the
poet is searching for the rhyme at the expense of the content and besides
that, there occur ill-chosen words like 'quaint' Bourne End and 'concrete'
London. To me, these are lazy words, words that tell me little that I didn't
already know. Can you imagine this poet labouring with a worried frown for
the finest and most stimulating adjective to describe Bourne End and coming
up with 'quaint'? OK the rhyme does not occur in all of the poems, not even
in the majority, but when it does it grates equally as in 'Glad in Mayfair';
purr-fur, boutiques-weeks, owned-cloned, wealth-stealth and square-there and
while I'm at it 'Glad' in Mayfair? 'Glad'? Glad is a mediocre word in its own
right hovering somewhere between 'exhilarating' and 'vaguely happy', 'Glad'
means, means, ugh I don't know what it means really. Coleridge ('Poetry is
the best words in the best order') must be tossing in his grave like a junkie
starved of Laudanum.
So you are concluding that I love Ms Troup's collection and intensely dislike
Mr Oxley's? Well, it isn't as easy as that because just when the fonts are
driving me nuts and the rhyme and ill-chosen words are inducing a massive
headache I come across Mr Oxley's almost naive and Claire-like description
in 'Snack Bar, Leather Lane';
haggis-complexioned old woman
white as winter's snow
blustery for Scotland
country' and 'Glasgie'
and highland and whiskey
and a niece
she could no longer see.
...that is good, it could benefit from refining, from examining each word
carefully but in essence you can feel the poet's empathy and closeness to the
subject. But in general you will read little in London Visions that doesn't make you want to edit and alter the
And so here we have a Good collection of poetry from Siriol Troup, another
collection from William Oxley which is, in the main, Bad... and scattered
throughout the latter, Bluechrome's own peculiar fetish for pointless and
ugly fonts. Anthony Delgrado is the Editor in Chief of Bluechrome, he is a
good man, taking time out to give endless advice to poets (including myself)
and allowing many new and previously unpublished poets to have their work
aired to a wider audience. I wish though that he'd either take time out to
explain to me the point of the wobbly-font phenomena (which invades other
collections from Bluechrome by the way) - because there either has to be a
point; or it is pointless, that is a tautology, if it's pointless then drop
© Alan Corkish 2005