A Near Miss if Often Frighteningly Exciting


Third Wish Wasted
, Roddy Lumsden (72pp, 7.95, Bloodaxe)


The question is not whether Lumsden can write poems but whether there are enough potential readers that can grasp all that he is saying. He often indulges himself, to perhaps an excessive degree, with metaphorthat is often obscure, and sometimes a slight way off target.

In the initial poem, 'The Young', we get 'Chances dance off your wrists', which I would say has cricketing connections, having fielded at slip and had a misjudged catch strike me painfully in that region, but what of 'pockets brim with scimitar thing' and 'each mistake a broken biscuit'? Is he going for ersatz solutions for his metaphor needs, or are they direct substitutes for what he wishes to convey?

There is no doubt that Roddy likes indulging himself. He can speak in plain English if he wants to, as in 'Middleton' (which we are told is twinned with Chandigarh and Port Augusta), but straight speaking comes as an anti-climax after the shop-loaded  bric-a-brac messages of his more intricate pieces.

There are more recognisable descriptions that delight recognition just as much without confounding, without being tugs-of-war half-way between metaphor and telling lies. In the 'Dying Horse, Tyssen Road', for instance - 'How still he is and coarse / with florin eyes'. And yet in the same poem he mentions the 'bull's blood, penny toffee / taste of London Pride'. Now our poet may know a lot more about poetry techniques than I do, but I certainly know more about beer, and bull's blood would have to be pretty thin and pale to be compared to Fuller's London Pride ale, though that drink is by no means anaemic.

If you like thinking things through, judging choice of phrase, you'll like this collection. If you also like variety, there is a wide range of subject matter too. We've mentioned dead horses, well there's railway stations, and microwaves, and waves towards dress designers, thinking of sex, a loving leap into masturbation, Liberace, old Scottish words, Ludlow, and as if knowing my doubts that not all readers will decipher his metaphors, Between The Penny Dropping and the Penny Landing.

It's a book to dip into and pull out a plum or a prune or a fruit you've never witnessed before, or is it a fruit at all? Taste it... ummgh!

       Geoff Stevens 2009