Forty Lies, John Gallas, illustrated by
Sarah Kirby (84pp, £12.95, Carcanet)
I love the illustrations in this book - absolutely
beautiful and remind me of the leather prints I used to do in secondary
school, only with a lot more craft. In fact the illustrations could easily
stand on their own as a collection, but I'm not so sure that the poetry
There is a lot going on in this book: and the list goes like this:
A poem shaped like a man
Lists in boxes
Numbers in boxes
Free verse poems
A nice example could be page 54:
is a Lovely Bird.
He tell the
time. He keep his word.
He glare and
struttle like a King
He peck. He
crow. He fight. He sing
He rule the
roost. He wise. He strong.
He shine like
gold. He never wrong//
He run the
wind. He fly like cloud.
He jump the
hens. He loud. He proud.
O prince of
Birds! O splendid-free!
Take this message!
Fly for me.
And my favourite is on page 52 which my keyboard can't replicate but it runs
across the page in one waving line:
died. We burned an aeroplane. Black ash-shape.
It took off
with his soul.
I also like the narrative type poems on page 63: (small example, as it is a
the the the
is of everywhere behind Rome. Heaven Forum Spanish Steps
Devine Agony clouds rain rain drainpipes sheep cows turnips
My impression of this book is that it's... well ok but a little uninspiring.
It didn't excite me or get the juices going but then I need to be hit over
head with something different. I feel that the poet would like to be more
'experimental' than he has been allowed to be - perhaps due to the incredible
ignorance and resistance in the publishing world to anything that looks
'experimental'. And it frustrates me on a daily bases that publishers' fears
rule the rooster as regards to
what is released. That the market is flooded with the average for fear that
the reader won't get it. I would say to these publishers that if they were
to open their minds and take a chance that poetry might just catch up with
rest of the art world. That the done to death has been done to death. That
only in poetry are we still replicating 16th century styles and getting
away with it. That the readers' taste buds need the curry powder spooned in
- and ya know what the British fish and chip brigade might just like it. You
might even get them trying sushi on a revolving belt in a neon fantasia
up-side-down strapped to a plastic bucket.
Yet this book is a fair shout and the illustrations with it make it
'interesting' and that's as far as it moves me (sorry please don't hate me).
© James McLaughlin