Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Whispers




Poetry does not have a lot going for itself these days – it needs all the help it can get – so when the postman arrived with a package and it wasn’t my eagerly expected new hard drive I can’t pretend I wasn’t disappointed that it was only a book of poetry and one I hadn’t ordered personally, i.e. a review copy. Me being me of course I then felt guilty for feeling that way so I had that to overcome too.

And then there was the presentation, which was nice, don’t get me wrong, but it was also a little too nice, a slick, professionally-produced hardback on good-quality paper with a glossy dust wrap – very nice you might think so why was this an obstacle? Because I immediately wondered who the book was being marketed to. I don’t know about you but the number of hard-backed poetry books I own I could count on one hand. People would like us to believe that no one buys poetry these days which simply isn’t true but I would like to know who buys hard-backed poetry books.

Then I made the mistake of flicking through the opening pages, those pages where you get to list the magazines you’ve been published in – looked like nothing but university magazines (okay so you list your best stuff) – and the awards you’ve received – first prize American Poetry Association two years running (sounds impressive) – and the radio stations that had broadcast his work (the BBC no less) … all of which felt like an obstacle to overcome rather than a recommendation, a reassurance that I was in the hands of a master of his craft. Perhaps it’s an American thing, perhaps it’s just me, but I felt I was being sold the guy.

The contents page listed the poems but I didn’t pay a blind bit of attention to it. It was just a list and I didn’t fret about it. I jumped straight to the first poem, ‘The Love That Passed Us By’, not exactly a title that excited me but what the heck, it’s just a title. The poem begins:

Fallen riders from the carousel of dreamers,
tumbled, humbled – hurled by make-believe,
be our own phoenixes – rise to splendorous life
– the love that passed us by! Too late we learn
that rainbows fade from showers of the eyes.


at which point I put the book aside and thought to myself: What the hell have I got in my hands here? This read like something one of the Romantic poets might have penned. I was probably fifteen the last time I mentioned a phoenix in a poem.

This did not bode well.

So, I read through the publicity materials that came with the book. (Yes, it had publicity materials.) There was a quote from a Dr. Ernest Kay at Cambridge who said that “Jonathan Russell” – that’s the author’s name by the way – “is reminiscent of the late and great John Masefield.” Kay is actually the Director General of the International Biographical Centre in Cambridge. (Yes, I googled him.) Masefield is known to me (I didn’t need to google him) – we did ‘Sea Fever’ in Primary 7 (you know the one – “I must go down to the sea again…”) but none of this helped. Comparing a 21st century poet to Masefield (who only died in 1967 I was surprised to discover), great though he might have been (he did manage to get appointed to the position of Poet Laureate), still made me wonder. The publicity material says that “Whispers is a collection of poems that celebrates love and the natural” and, if you add in the dozen or so nautical poems it’s easy to see why Masefield might just leap to the good Doctor’s mind; personally I kept coming back to Wordsworth who was not adverse to poems of a seafaring nature himself.

Of course there is very little poetry written that is not in some way derivative. I’m just not sure when ‘derivative’ got to be a derisory term: everything derives from something. No doubt Masefield was inspired by Wordsworth who was in turn inspired by Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare and Milton.

There is not a lot of decent nature poetry being written these days and I’d be hard pushed to remember the last poem about sailing ships I’ve read so I was surprised to find a poem in this collection that began:

O give me a ship, the wind on my neck, a deck
at my feet, tall masts to scratch a sapphire sky
and what cradle of peace rocks to the maternal sky.

from ‘Great Call of the Sea’


The problem I find with nature poetry in general, despite its often overt sentimentality, is that it so often relies on language that we now regard as clichéd. It’s not that Nature has become irrelevant, far from it, it’s just that its relevance has changed; Nature is now something we talk about preserving for future generations, it is something “out there” that we have to travel to rather than something that surrounds us. The 19th century poets were forever yearning to merge with nature. Our aesthetic appreciation of nature nowadays relies less on contextual knowledge than on a spectator’s sense of being within a landscape. Nature is something we escape to but at the same time we recognise that we’re really just visiting.

That sense comes across in many of these poems and yet there is also an awareness of Nature standing up for itself as in the poem ‘Oonala and the White Ants Sleeping’ which talks about how Nature thwarts the attempts of oil drillers in the Australian outback:

The pendulum had momentarily swung to a stop,
Dame Nature had played havoc with the clock


Further on in the poem – it’s a long one, 10 pages – we see the chief now happy with the results and this provides a good example of the kind of rhyme scheme that Russell uses the most with lots of internal and half-rhymes and plenty of alliteration:

Chief Oomala rose, and gloating with satisfaction sat
like a squat messiah frog agog with his own sagacity
on a pond’s brink, blinking blissfully to freckled kin
bubbles blowing across the dark water rippling.


What is also a little different about this particular poem is that it has a definite sense of place.

There is no doubt that Russell is a capable technician though he keeps his palette limited to the more common poetic techniques. Metaphors are prevalent, the occasional onomatopoeia and although he mostly he handles his rhymic language with care he does drop the occasional clanger with his use of full rhyme:

How can we drop anchor
In heavy seas of rancor?

from ‘Shipwrecked Mariners of the Heart’


Nature – as in trees and animals – is not the only subject matter in this collection. Like Wordsworth before him Russell also comments on the nature of Man from poems on childhood experiences till considerations on death and dying. I was struck by the ending to this particular poem:

Through our mother’s tunnel of love we squeeze
and smack into life loud as the dawn chorus.
Ultimately, silently and reluctantly, mostly we depart
as a mole of Faith in its tunnel blocking the light.

from ‘The Older We Grow’


You’ll note the capitalisation of ‘Faith’ in the last poem. This is a trend he adopts in a lot of his poems, words like ‘Future’, ‘Love’, ‘Youth’, ‘Time’ and ‘Faith’ and is certainly not something I would expect from a 21st century poet but there is an undeniably old-fashioned feeling to these poems, a pining for older, better times. Classical references abound – Zeus, Apollo, Venus, Cupid, Morpheus, Pandora, Titan, Artemis, Atlas, even Cerberus and I could go on – in fact every time there was as much as a puddle in a poem I fully expected to see Neptune bursting out of it on the back of a dolphin (why no references to Poseidon or Triton?) – and there were also a few biblical references in particular to the Good Samaritan. Really his source material is the kind of stuff most well-read – and even not that well-read – people will be able to connect with.

Dogs appear in a number of the poems. As Russell is blind I suspect a great attachment to guide dogs may have prompted this although he manages to avoid the cloyingly sentimental when talking about them except for ‘Paws in Paradise’ – I couldn’t get over the image of a winged Coco ‘begging from Saint Francis / at the Lord’s table’. ‘Valhalla Hill’ fares a bit better as does ‘A Hole in the Darkness’.

The most poignant for me though was ‘The Last Waltz’ which begins:

In the park, deserted-dark – two seated figures
haunt the rippling lake. Night sleepwalking
on the moonlit liquid, reflects of Eleaze
like a beautiful flower gone to seed – the tight
thin petals of her unseeing eyes are closed for ever.


Otto, her devoted Labrador, is harnessed to her darkness.
and ends with the couple dancing in the dark:

“Otto, dearest, on my carnet de Bal* I’ve reserved
for you the last waltz.” And as if to assist Eleaze
to her feet, Otto lifts a gallant paw.

The strange couple linked, foot to claw.
hand to paw, burnt umber to pearl
facing each other, bridging the tacit void,
the doppelgangers of Past and Present coalesce.

* a dance card holder


You’ll note the use of ‘haunt’ in the first quote. This is something that struck me about the collection as a whole, I counted at least twenty poems that contain references to ghosts, phantoms and other spectral phenomena, all – bar a couple I think – as metaphors. It is perhaps a weakness of the collection that I kept coming upon similar imagery over and over again. I was particularly struck by these three:

the crabs came rolling home to their tea.

from ‘By the Sea of Crabs and Crocuses’

with stingray on skin and crab in my rolling stride.

from ‘Sea Peace’

We watch the drunken crabs staggering home

from ‘A Day to be Free’


Notwithstanding Neptune’s nine appearances and a good seven dolphins (there’s even a poem called ‘Sleeping Dolphin’), half-a-dozen swans (one of which also is sleeping), some phoenixes, albatrosses, lots of purple flowers, moons that look like melons (or in one case a lemon) and even a few angels. Oh, and more references to Glamorgan than I rightly expected to see. Oh, and talking about ‘O’, according to W.D. Snodgrass every poet has the right to begin a line of poetry with an ‘O’ at least once in his life (even I’ve managed it), but, for my tastes Russell overdoes it. A small selection:

O what trysts to keep with our love-in-the-mist!

from ‘The Love That Passed Us By’

O awaken the mistaken! Beneath our shining gold braid

from ‘When the Moonlight Breaks’

O jealous forgettable wallflowers sighing bouquets

from ‘The Last Waltz’

O blow me home to the whales, the beautiful fountains

from ‘Endless Horizons’


Shelley wrote that the poet’s job is to refresh language for their society and that’s true of both Masefield and Wordsworth both who contributed significantly to making poetry accessible to the man in the street. Jonathan’s Russell’s poetry is without a doubt accessible, so we can tick that box, but I'd have to say that it fails to advance the cause of poetry. I don't mind that his influences come through but it's what he does with his material, or fails to do, that bothers me.

The next question I would ask is: Is it relevant?

Yes, some of it is. Russell doesn’t write ‘I must go down to the sea again’ but he does say:

…we flee on our fleet rubber wheels to the sea

from ‘A Day to be Free’


and, once there:

                                        …such a joy to cast off
from the wharf of life and rejoice to the tongue of the sea
under the shrieking clouds kissing the shingle goodbye.
For at sea, what comradery, at the table taboo
politics and religion, for more sins are brewed in the pot
of these heavenly twins than by their virtues rise to Paradise.

from ‘Great Call of the Sea’


And what are they running from?

Concrete pasta, the marvellous mortar mix
by Rome invented by phallic Manhattan inherited
rising to the plumes of pollution…

from ‘The Beef and Pasta of Art’


Yes, just as Blake could bemoan the ‘dark Satanic Mills’ of his day so we have a lot to take issue with today. Yes, that is relevant. Some of it is not. The gentleman-of-the-road cropped up not infrequently in the works of 19th century poets. I remember as a child, along with the aforementioned ‘Sea Fever’ being introduced to Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘The Vagabond’:

Give to me the life I love,
      Let the lave go by me,
Give the jolly heaven above
      And the byway nigh me.


and it’s really impossible for me not to think of lines like that when I read Russell’s ‘Nature’s Travelling Gentlemen’:

Nature’s tramping tortoises of the tarmac
were slowly nibbling up the mileage
by their shark mouthed boot leather.


But the romanticised tramp is a thing of the past. Perhaps people take less to the road these days. They simply retire early and relocate to the Continent.

The question I have to ask is: What if someone like Masefield had kept writing poetry down till this day? Masefield himself had become unfashionable as far back as the 1930s though his star is somewhat in the ascendant at the moment. Yes, he would include things like cars and bus stops, even though of course they had both in his day, but would he have anything new to say or would he still be regarded, as he is by many, as a Georgian relic despite living through the reigns of four monarchs?

One of the main problems I had with this collection, despite the fact I think it contains too many poems that are too similar, is that it could do with being organised differently. I would have liked to have seen the dog poems, and the sea poems, the love poems and the humorous poems grouped together. And, yes, there were humorous pieces here:

The tiger in Niger is gloriously glamorous to a tigress
in striped pyjamas making amorous overtures.

from ‘Fateful Attraction’


has a definite touch of the Ogden Nash here although I believe it was Edward Lear who wrote:

There once was a lady from Niger
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger


The bottom line is that this is not a bad collection as long as it finds the right home. My mother would have loved it. That may sound like a put down saying that I would give it to my mother but there are a lot of mothers out there and they need something to read.

Up till now I’ve only offered snippets of the poetry on offer in this collection and so I’d like to leave you with a couple of complete poems to help you decide whether this guy’s for you. I think his humorous verse is his best work so here’s ‘Prudence Pimm’ first of all and, since he mentions the spectral so often, tell me there’s no Poe in the last poem in the collection ‘Shadow’ and I’ll eat my hat.

Prudence Primm

Prudence was a prim collegiate blue-stocking,
a spinster devoted to her catechism – akin to a church
        mouse
nibbling at Christianity. As candles on the altar flicker,
occasionally did her Faith. She took cat-comfort
in her lap. Tom was stuffed to the tips on his whiskers
with tuna, and spoonfuls of cream to fortify his milk
till purr inflated into fur. She was the most consummate
unconsummated lady of her locality, with Heaven’s price
heavy on her virginity – closing the gap to opportunities!
Sadly, she prayed for a suitor of purity to replace
Tom who’d gone missing without leaving a trace.
Months lugubriously lapsed, then Thomas returned
with his bride, plus kittens – rekindling her Faith.
        Prudence
In her pew sank to her knees, staring above
Eyes like saucers – at her priest as if seeing God.


Shadow

Sleepwalking through the window, a moonlit phantom
whispered: “I’m your shadow, I shall thee follow.”
I awoke and spoke: “O true ghost, why do you?”
“Because I love you,” answered my faithful shadow,
“I follow thee everywhere.” I inquired, “When I quit this
     life,
will you follow me still?” “Indeed I will,” assured
the clinging fly of a wraith – it now kneeling on the
     ceiling.
The grandfather clock tolled from its tower below,
calling the hours to prayers. I asked the ghost
(beginning curling like smoke) above my bed: “Do you
     pray
for my soul?” And it shook its darkness negatively. “But
     surely
you believe?” I exclaimed, “Don’t tell me we pray in vain
– there has to be a Heaven?” The spectre, as it vanished
     sighed:
“Not to my knowledge – but until we arrive we never can
     tell.”




Russell, by the way, is an Englishman who has become a U.S. citizen. He holds an Honorary Doctorate of Literature from the London Institute for Applied Research and Docteur des Lettres, Pyschologie et Litterature, from the Academie Des Sciences Humaines Universelles in Paris. He is an Honorary Professor of Humanities at the Institute of Higher Economic and Social Studies in Brussels, Belgium and was chosen International Literary Man of the Year for Services to Poetry by the International Biographical Centre of Cambridge (England). In 1998 and 1999 he received the grand prize from the American Poetry Association and has been admitted to the Academy of American Poets.

20 comments:

gingatao said...

What a great review. Close attention by careful erudite reviewers like yourself graces the art of poetry. There is a quiet revival going on, I think, a reclamation of certain traditional points of view and techniques, a kind of retreat from overt intellectualism back into a focus on communication, that is very refreshing for avid readers of contemporary poetry. The poetry you have reviewed here certainly seems an honourable example.

Rachel Fox said...

I like your Shelley reference...do you have the full quote or do I have to go and look it up myself?

If I'm honest...the cover of that book would be quite a stumbling block for me (and I'm a mother...). I would of course try and overcome those first impressions and read the poems before making any judgement...but I can't promise anything.

Claire A said...

Re: the list of previous publications seeming like an obstacle - I get this all the time and yes, I think it IS an American thing. At Read This we get poems by (almost always) American writers, who seem to think it's a good idea to preface their submissions with statements like "X's poetry has appeared in over 400 print journals and over 500 online zines worldwide." This is obviously supposed to impress me, the editor, into publishing them, because obviously if they're good enough for all those (generally unnamed) journals and zines, they MUST be good enough for RT, right?

In actuality, it turns me right off. My first thought is "so why haven't I heard of you?" and my second is usually that they can't be very selective or careful about who they send their work to and why. Also - and perhaps it's because I'm British - it smacks of a boastfulness and an immodesty which really gets my goat. Better to say "I've only ever been published once before, but it was in Poetry Review," than to imply that everyone and their dog has read your poems because you're happy to fling them at all and sundry.
I'm reading a lot into this, of course, but I just don't understand how anyone can think it's a good idea to tell editors they they have 900 indiscriminate publications to their name. I find it very hard to take a poet seriously after that... which is why my book will have the acknowledgements at the back, if I can possibly swing it.

Jim Murdoch said...

Paul, thanks for your kind words. I did take a great deal of care over this review and I'm happy to admit that I was outside my comfort zone. Still, for me it was a worthwhile exercise, to tackle something new. I would agree that the focus in poetry is changing and readers are looking for more accessible subject matter. I still think we're looking to be stretched and stimulated rather than simply being entertained.

Sorry, Rachel, but you're on your own regarding the Shelley quote. I found it in an encyclopaedia in my local library in one of a number of articles I read to get my head in the right mindset to do this justice. The cover is, I agree, a major obstacle which is a shame because it is a lovely book and they're done a good job with the cover. It just sends out … a certain message. I would never have picked it up in a book store but then I really don't think I was the book's target audience.

And, Claire, yes, I think you're probably right there. I usually mention the last three because I've never been in Poetry Review and I don't expect I ever will. The guy had hired a firm to market him and that is what they did. I googled him when I first got the book – I google everyone I'm going to write about (you know that) – and he was conspicuous by his absence even if he is blind. And I find that interesting that we now judge a person by his online presence; things are changing.

Ken Armstrong said...

Aggie: Oor Jim's tekkin it oot on other pore writers since he git that awfee revoo!

(I know, I know)

:)

Jim Murdoch said...

Ken, Shuggie's got a wonkey table leg - he wants to know how thick that new book of yours is. About a quarter of an inch would do just fine.

Ken Armstrong said...

Naw, you'd need three or four of them for that! :)

shug said...

What a strange collection. It sounds almost like pastiche. Don't want to rush to judgement without reading it first, though.

Jim Murdoch said...

Shug, the word 'pastiche' was certainly in my notes but I'm not sure that it is. My feeling is that Russell's influences are just showing through. I don't think he was deliberately trying to copy any of the poets I mention.

jena isle said...

Awesome poetry. I find it soulful. How could one write so well?

Rachel Fox said...

I did wonder with the cover and everything if the book was a big pisstake by some group of students or something (as in how easy is to manufacture a 'great' reputation for a non-existent poet using all the right bits and pieces of information). But then I do have a tendency to see conspiracy and intrigue everywhere...if you remember Jim I did once think you might be the figment of Carrie's imagination or something (or vice versa). That still could be true. Maybe your blog title has more layers than we realise...

Jim Murdoch said...

Jena, I'm glad you appreciated Johnathan's poetry.

And, Rachel, if it is a pisstake then all credit to them. What I want to know is what they're doing doing this and not trying to get think up ways to get laid.

Dave King said...

I get the definite impression that his short lines are more to my taste than his longer ones, but certainly the guy seems interesting.

I go along with Gingatao: it's a great review.

On the general question of hard- or soft-back, for me softbacks are for novels and poetry about which I have not reached a conclusion. Stuff I know I like I prefer in hardback - not special;ly in swish, glossy hardback, though!

Jim Murdoch said...

Thanks for that, Dave. I'm afraid he has a fondness for the longer line. Interesting he was, yes, and as I've freely admitted, this was well out of my comfort zone but if I didn't think I could do a good job and be fair I would have passed.

I know the old adage about not judging a book by its cover and up till now I've always assumed that the covers would be tatty. This is the first time I've judged a book negatively because it was well turned out. Interesting.

SweetTalkingGuy said...

You do write a very good review, don't you!

Jim Murdoch said...

Well, Sweet Talking Guy, I'm glad you think so.

Deidre Randall said...

Hi Jim,
As the publicist for Whispers, I must thank you for the lengthy review you posted of this book. I was surprised to see that having a fine quality book was cause for skepticism as to its contents. Jonathan is a wonderful man, who is very unsophisticated and has never even used the internet, so his lack of online presence is an honest representation. In listing his previous books and awards, we were simply attempting to offer readers the sense that he has been crafting award winning poetry for many years, despite his legal blindness. Often times poetry is sold at readings by the poet, which is no longer possible for Jonathan, so we were hoping to find ways to share the quality of the poems beyond his local area. He is quite modest and it was my decision, as publisher and publicist, to include the accolades, in order to attract whatever attention possible to this final collection, from a talented poet and fine man. Perhaps you can tell that I have been personally affected by working with Jonathan? He is truly a kind, funny and very unique person. I will close by saying that we do appreciate your detailed attention to the many poems in the collection.

Jim Murdoch said...

Thanks for the feedback, Deidre, and I do appreciate your comments. I think the 'scepticism', as you call it, has arisen over the years because of an increasing irritation with the whole concept of marketing. Very few of us like the hard sell – usually because we find ourselves disappointed with the product in some way – and we're extra cautious the next time. This is not to suggest that this was a hard sell but I for one am very wary of a film, for example, where the poster lists off a wall of credits assuming that I'll pay more attention to them than the reviews about the film. It's a hard call to make. My impression of the book when I opened your package was that this was the kind of book my late mother would have loved, even without looking at a single poem. I would never have picked that book up based purely on its appearance, for me.

As for the lack on an online presence, the world is changing and it is becoming something people look for. I do virtually all my business online these days. Jonathan's blindness is a consideration but I know several blind people who have very active web presences. One of the UK's Big Brother contestants produces his own radio show and codes the website attached to it himself. I would have at least expected that his publicist would have created a site showcasing his writing. If there had been one then I might very well have declined the offer to review his book. I had my doubts at first but his style of poetry is very different to mine and I had to put a lot of work into writing that review but I'd accepted the book and I felt it was only fair to do my best.

As for Jonathan I have no doubt he is a lovely man and I hope he wasn't upset by my review. I tried to be as objective as I could and I really do think there will be a market for his book. I'm just not sure how you are going to contact them online but I wish you the best of luck.

Cecilia said...

I read through the various comments posted on the website and wanted to share a bit about my father to set the record straight.

My father is a Brit and is 89. He is also legally blind, has a heart condition and breathing problems. He adopted an abandoned, extremely neurotic giant apricot poodle who is spoilt to death named CoCo (actually her owners could not cope with her so brought her to see Dad and left her there! Both Coco and Dad are loving looked after by Shirly, his wife, whose ears have been overworked and underpaid listening to all his newly composed poems for the past two decades.

He taught himself how to use the computer about eight years ago when his sight failed and he was no longer able to write. His intense desire to continue writing poetry made him find a way to figure out the computer which he uses with a huge screen and an equally huge keyboard and a magnifying glass. He does not know how to use the internet and I would question if there are many 89year olds with their sight who are able to use the computer to market themselves on the internet to make themselves better known? In addition to this, my father has no interest in promoting himself, he only wants to get his poetry out to the public so they can enjoy reading it.

His style reflects the era in which he grew up and the classical nature of his vocabularly depicts his educational background. Why should he write any differently? His ability with words is amazing and he has written over a thousand poems in his lifetime! Most of them are in sonnet form. He only started getting his work published when he came to the States in the early nineties and he was in his seventies, and the universities welcomed his poetry with open arms.

More about the man.
My father loves animals (which is why he writes about them), is a vegetarian as he does not like the idea of eating the animals he so loves (he even bought me home a snake that had been abandoned)and wishes war was a word that had been deleted from the dictionary.

He was in the Merchant Navy and was torpedoed several times and floated in the sea for many days before being rescued and still loves the sea which is why he writes about it with nostalgia in his poetry.

He makes up rhymes at the breakfast table, laughs at his own jokes till he cries and is someone who has always been so open minded that he was my best girlfriend!!!! He was always the person (and still is) that I run to with all my problems.


To conclude, this remarkable "young" man is someone we all need to meet and get inspiration from. He fills you with hope and optimism for the future and is the best "pick me up" available in the marketplace.

He would love to hear from you and will respond (through me) to each and every e mail received at cysrussell@gmail.com

Cecilia Russell

Jim Murdoch said...

Cecilia, thanks for your feedback on your father's behalf.

In the main on this site I tend to review books that I buy myself and certainly even then not everything I read, just books that I think deserve a second look. As the popularity of my site has grown publishers have begun approaching me with a view to doing reviews for them. That is a different proposition and I have turned down books when I've realised that the book was of no interest to me. Bear in mind that, apart from a free copy of the book, I receive nothing for this service.

When Deidre first contacted me I did what I do with everyone I write about, I googled her. And then your father. I did everything I could to find out more and I came up short. This worried me because I was faced with making my decision to accept a copy of the book based on nothing more than what she told me about your father, nevertheless I accepted and having accepted felt duty bound to do my best.

A lot of publishers generally market the man before the book. This has always annoyed me and in some respects I was glad to know as little as I did about your father, after all I was reviewing the work and that needed to stand or fall on its own merits.

My gut reaction when I did have the book in my hands, before I even opened it, was that this book would have a definite demographic. Had I seen it in a bookshop I wouldn't have looked twice at it for myself. Had I been searching for a present for my late mother then that would have been another thing entirely; she would have been a contemporary of your father.

Once I started reading the poems it was obvious to my mind that I was right. These were the kind of poems she might have appreciated. As you say, "[h]is style reflects the era in which he grew up". I, for my part, was unaware of his age and only had a single black and white photograph to go on which showed a man, to my mind, of about sixty. But that is neither here nor there. I was reviewing the book for today's audience. Your father's age, health, past accomplishments were irrelevant.

Aware that I was a little out of my depth I spent several weeks reading up on poets and poetry that your father's work reminded me of. Exhausting what the Internet had to offer I descended on my local library and finally, armed with several pages of notes, I began my review. It is a subjective review. I believe it's best to be up front. And when I said, "this is not a bad collection as long as it finds the right home," that is exactly how I feel about it; I found it nostalgic and sentimental not that there's anything wrong with that but he is being nostalgic for an era I'm unfamiliar with. To illustrate: yes, there were tramps in my childhood, 'tinkers' we called them, but I was afraid of them; I hold no romantic associations whatsoever.

On the marketing side of things, people I find are a lot more wary nowadays than we used to be. We hate being, if I can coin a phrase, 'marketed at', and we become suspicious very quickly. When I replied to Deirdre I mentioned film posters which list a wall of credits that all but obliterate the film they're trying to promote. I do include you’re your father's credits word-for-word – I literally cut and pasted them – but at the end of the review, as is my habit, so people would have to read through the review before they find out about the man.

I appreciate the background information about Jonathan and am impressed by what you've told me. Personally I wish your father well with this endeavour and I hope the book finds its target audience. I'm not sure that he'll find it online though but I'd love to be wrong.

Ping services