Two Pieces of Information


Small World, Richard Price (101pp, 9.95, Carcanet)


This seemed to me like two very different books, so:

REVIEW A

Those keen on the loose grouping of Scottish writers known as 'the Informationists' will be interested in this collection of mostly quite small fragments and poems. Readers au fait with this term will know that these writers aim to interrogate the power-structures of language by mixing and mingling different registers in their work.

In practice, this means some quite jokey free-verse pieces, short-lined and often quite Imagistic in content - the three-line 'That Passing Place' is a case in point:

     An orchid, dainty,
     petals just pink, embroidered,
     brave at the roadside.

Some will find themselves near the Paris Metro with Pound at this point, except there is a difference: the perception of the faces in the Pound poem transforms and makes new the ghostlike sheen of the natural image. In the Price poem (which I have quoted in full) there is no sense of transformation - this is just an example of pathetic fallacy - with a limited shelf-life, given the proximity of the road. Lots of the smaller pieces tend to begin with bald statements, like this one.

Perhaps you prefer your poems with emoticons? If so, then 'Jewellery' with a sad emoticon face in the title is the one for you. In case you're confused, ' 'I am sad', the very circular face can be taken to say./It has a perfect upside-down smile.' Get the picture now?

Elsewhere, different type-faces  
like this one,          and fragments of nursery-rhymes are used.

It's all quite surprising and if you haven't read much experimental poetry, then you might like it. Having lived long enough to realise that power-bearing structures can't be very easily defused and are usually there for reasons of comprehensibility, I preferred the longer pieces that look and read quite like poems. Often, in fact, I read poems not to get information.

....but there's also:

REVIEW B

The two long 'Small World' sequences in this collection, effectively explore what it means to be caught in the ripples of a catastrophic illness. Several of Richard Price's poems here bravely evoke the grey world of hospital waiting-rooms and bedside vigils, relearning, rethinking - a situation that lends itself to the informationist project to mix tones and registers, the blunt nomenclature of care rubbing painfully up against the raw emotions near the surface. These are painful, urgent poems borne out of life-changing experiences.

     M. C. Caseley 2013