of Jeremy Over's poems reflect an interest in natural history but his
material has also been influenced by classic surrealism and he enjoys reworking
earlier poems by famous writers. Some of his work seems to employ material
montaged from other sources and he has a keen eye for intriguing
juxtapositions which cause you to re-read the text just to check that you've
'got it', or not, as the case might be. He's clearly also been influenced by
Edward Lear although this connection is sparing and often thoughtful.
There're a wide variety of forms and explorations in his work, from
minimalist lyrics to prose poetry and given the quality of his writing I'm slightly
surprised I've not heard much about him before. The textures of his poetry
are taut and devoid of waste yet you often get a feeling of 'stretching out',
of a dreamlike quality reminiscent of Reverdy, perhaps, even where you can
trace the thought processes in a 'logical', linear fashion and where you are
often brought up sharply by the strangeness of the connecting ideas.
'Cursu undoso' appears to have its origin in cut-ups from natural
history texts and mixes a pastoral reverie with snippets of a narrative which
shifts from the innocuous to the spooky and where H.P Lovecraft seems to
co-exist with apple pie. The opening sentence of this piece is typical in its
puzzling philosophical probing yet also revels in the slippery nature of
language and the delight that is to be found when engaging in such
have outlets might contrive to make ornament
to utility and become so merry and loud as to be irksome
in a room
where little is said but much is meant and understood.
There's a lot of humour in this writing but it's often a humour built on
estranging tactics which force the reader(s) to reconsider what they thought
they understood. If your head starts to spin then the end result is often
laughter, sometimes uneasy, sometimes out-loud and unrestrained!
Over's engagement with the English pastoral tradition has an element of
homage but it's also filled with a satirical teasing as evidenced
particularly by two poems in this collection. In 'The Waterfall Illusion',
for example, we get:
something (a smell?) in the hedgerow.
I don't know
what it was but it was alive
itself in the dark.
This is all
going on in my trousers remember
Jerome eats cheese and continues to read assiduously
in his study
on the house on the lake, É.
This reminds me of Martin Hibbert, another intriguing off-the-wall 'pastoral'
poet I've not heard anything about for some time. Over continues in this
fashion, working with different registers and vocabularies, keeping you aware
that he's playing a game and intrigued as to where it will end up. Then we
get what I take to be a send-up of that passage in The Prelude where the
protagonist is rowing the boat and the mountain is perceived as a menacing
(and moving) presence due to the child's misunderstanding and the skill of
the narrative description:
Dr Adams discovered that if
he stared for
twenty seconds at a fixed point in the torrent, then
his gaze leftwards to the adjacent rocky gully, the gully
The context for this passage seems to me to leave little alternative but to
respond with laughter but for all I know there are a dozen different ways of
reacting depending upon your point of view. In a sense it's a strength of
these poems that the reader is forced to explore his/her psyche in order to
or follow the stream of sense or logic yet sometimes all you can do is 'go
with the flow' and perhaps think about it later.
Over exhibits an interest in painting and painting techniques in several of
these poems and 'Pastoral' is the most direct of these where the subject is
clearly the style of the mystic landscape artist Samuel Palmer. Most of the
poem involves a straightforward description of the elements of individual
pictures, a pared-down commentary pretty much devoid of judgement or
analysis. Then we get:
largely experimented in egg vehicles & renders the whole
system an alembic
and withal they can only pass slimy motions which
do them no good
while the hardened and still
increasing faeces, which ought to be
got rid of,
are as tense as a bronze cast in the mould of their peri
Whether this is a Swiftian satire, a critique on the nature of Palmer's dark
impasto style of painting or a curious kind of homage I'm not sure but it
aids the overall strangeness of Over's work and adds to its diversity and
Given the strong influence of surrealism on his writing and Over's subjective
satirical impulse I can't avoid seeing a critical tendency at work here.
'The Lambent Itch of Innuendo' is a treatment of Yeats' 'The Lake Isle Of
Innisfree' as envisaged by Edward Lear and has its quota of
hilarious alliterative nonsense Ð 'I heave lambent wax larrikins with
lubricants by the shovelful'. I have a serious liking for this kind of stuff
and my only criticism is that there isn't enough of it here and that Over
doesn't seem to push it as far as he might. This could in fact be an overall
criticism of his work. There are people working outside of the mainstream
traditions in British poetry who have pushed the boat out a lot further than
this and while in some cases they appear to have 'got lost at sea' such wild
experimenters have often enabled others to profit from their fruitful explorations.
order (Erased Herrick)'
is a reworking of Herrick's poem 'Delight in Disorder', where the
simple expediency of cutting creates a work quite unlike the original, more
minimal and typographically spaced-out yet full of wit and absurd jesting.
Thus we get:
The final piece in this collection is entitled 'Pendolino' and is more prose
than prose-poem I think. The protagonist is sitting on a train, allowing his
mind to drift and creating a dreamy narrative which starts with the minutia
of his immediate surroundings and shifts perspective due to the vagaries of
changing thoughts and outside influences. It's a superbly constructed example
of stream-of-consciousness writing where the 'natural flow' is interrupted or
commented upon by intrusive thoughts and questions. It's the sort of writing
that suggests that we all have our story to tell and that working from what
is 'real and immediate' is as valid as any of the 'grander narratives' we are
still encouraged to think of as being more real. Over questions the nature of
authority and of experts in a very playful fashion as the concluding passage
of this piece suggests:
ask you? I ask you in particular,
associate Professor of Russian Literature at Syracuse
poised there on the back flap, perusing your own half-
read book and
thoughtfully smoking an unlit pipe. You look like
know a thing or two about this.