Friday, 23 September 2011

Points of interest on the Bus route

So, the new Poetry Bus magazine (issue 2).... getting it out nearly killed its editor, it's twice the area of the last one and this time it has a CD of poets reading their work and some music included too (hooray for music). I've only had my copy a few days but here are some early thoughts (starting near the back... I often read from the back...).

Firstly on individual poems:

The poem about a Francis Bacon painting by Sarah Maria Griffin is outstanding. I like her "electric picnic" poem (in two parts) too – 'selectively claustrophobic' and all.

Liam Ryan's “Homings” is that simple-in-a-good-way kind of a poem. Me like.

The poem about 'dyke and bike' by Kit Fryatt is very sophisticated and entertaining and most definitely, unique.

Jessie Lendennie's “4th August, 2011” is a current affairs poem that shouldn't work... but really does.

Liz Gallagher's “Stuffing Our Faces with Gods” seems to be the poem where the version in the magazine least matches the version on the CD. I would be interested to know which version Liz prefers at this point. I specially like the line “my god is more lucid than your god” but there are lots of other good lines too (some of them involving pies).

Kevin Higgins' “Blue” is a welcome flash of grotesque comedy in a sometimes sombre collection of poems (mine, for example, couldn't be gloomier if it tried... damn that bereavement).

Noel King's “When Fairies Gather” has a good play with the muse.

In “Drumcondra April 2010” David Murphy rhymes 'sarong' with 'pong' (and other things). Joy.

Richard Epstein's “News Break” contains some nifty lines/phrases. I like “Dress for adversity” and “More on this if there is more”. TV news has gone mad and he gets it just so in this poem.

Benjamin Robinson's “Have You Seen My trousers Anywhere?” has some cracking rhyming going on (and I'm just glad to see some rhyming poems in a poetry magazine at all, to be honest... it's been so long... and they're good too – even better).

Colm Scully's “Like a hat” is intriguing.

Michèle Vassal's “Under the Dog star” might just win the “best last line” award for this issue.

Richard Halperin's “Circus” is an interesting trip.

Padhraig Nolan is one of the old online Bus poets. I enjoyed his “Stella” in the magazine very much and remembered it from one of the original Bus prompts (the Stella Artois one, for those of us who were there... good memories). I also like his “an orange block/of what we buy as cheese” in “Noon”.

Miriam Needham's “In Need” is a corker. Dress to impress, indeed. And teamed up with matching artwork on the opposite page (by Una Gildea) – it's this season's must-have.

Brenda Cusack's “The unnameable” is, for me, a grower. First listen I wasn't struck on it (can't be doing with Beckett, so shoot me) but by second listen I was warming to the old corpse and its story nicely.

Colm Keegan's “Fridays” is a heartbreaker with some perfect details. I like “in the time before phones” (just minimal enough) and the mood is very well-painted in a simple but effective way.

And then some other thoughts:

It's good to have some poems in the mag about buses and being on buses. Adrian Mitchell would be pleased (“a bus says 'us' while a car says 'me'”, from his poem “Yes”).

There are not so many poets featured who used to ride the old online bus (someone else has written about that here). Who knows why this is... maybe some didn't submit, maybe some submitted poems that the editor didn't like... whatever it is I'm sure editor Peadar O'Donoghue will have some trouble ahead along this avenue (but I'm sure all editors do...and the more successful the mag the more the trouble will come... but good things will come too). For me, I do have a poem in this one but if he doesn't choose one of mine for issue 3 or 4 or 5 will I hate him? Oh yes... for at least a few hours... and then I'll hate someone else. In actual fact I don't much like the poem of mine that he did pick in the end for this issue. But maybe that's a good sign... I don't know.

Both of the music tracks on the CD are lovely, really enjoyable. Maybe next time there could be even more music sprinkled amongst the poems..? I love the vocals in The Souterrain's track and Martin Egan's “The Tune” is really gorgeous – unusual too.

The readings on the CD are very varied. Some are from live shows, others done on phones, some very clear, some a bit muffled. Some are done at breakneck speed (Sarah Clancy must breathe through her ears!) whilst others are damned slow (that'll be me... I'm getting a bit Pinter with the pauses, there). Anne Tannam, Miriam Needham, Sarah Maria Griffin and Stephen James Smith read well, for my taste, get the right mood (not too natural, not too stage school)... and I like Kat Mortensen's reading too (very crisp). I love all the different accents...and I suppose I never realised before that for an Irish poet, like Karl Parkinson in “In Rios Nightclub Drinking On My Own”, 'poem' can rhyme with 'alone' (that wouldn't work in my accent!). And I heard his 'birds' as 'boards' (which would completely change the tone...) so it's a good job I had the text to check... One or two poems are not on the CD which is a shame as it'd be nice to have the full set. Though saying that in places you can hear how some poems lose a little (for me) as audio. I like Kerrie O'Brien's “Drifting” much more on the page than on the CD, for example. It's a subtle poem and hard to do it justice in a reading perhaps (I like the poem very much).

The artwork is all really well-done and well-chosen. The cover artwork by Adam Neate, as shown at the top of the post, is fantastic (the centrefold too) and I have a soft spot for “Clouds” on page 39 by the Project Twins as well.

There are a couple of typos in the text (though not many). Our man needs a ham with the poofreading maybee.

There are some poems and poets that I haven't mentioned here and that is no criticism of them. This is only early thoughts and, in all honesty, there is nothing I don't like or think is rubbish in this new Poetry Bus (plus what do I know..?). It is a big old Bus with a lot packed into it so well done, that driver, I say. I find a lot of poetry magazines really, really boring/uninspiring/po-faced/predictable and you certainly can't say that about this one!



The Weaver of Grass said...

I now eagerly await the delivery of my copy. I do sometimes wonder whether it would be a good idea to revive the Poetry Bus - several folk have speculated along those lines (or roads) - the trouble is that I am not too good at writing poetry to order and that is what you have to do under those circumstances. I will let you know what I think of the whole thing in due course.

Rachel Fox said...

As I have said elsewhere today (at Nanu's) I am kind of glad the online Bus stopped when it did. It was a great time (certainly moved my writing along no end - as all writing projects should... no matter who you are or where you are in your writing life) but a weekly task can limit other influences and activities. It should be a new something not just the old something revived, if anything, I think. Peadar has his new activities (the magazine, his own book-to-be) and we all must find ours too (some together maybe, some not).

Peter Goulding said...

Certainly I'm not writing near as much since the Bus stopped, but that's because I'm a lazy get at heart and need to be pushed.
Good revieww of the magazine.

Titus said...

I'm still waiting! Still!

Eryl said...

Lovely review, Rachel, and I do like the idea of a CD to go along with the poems on the page.

Karen said...

Good review! I'm still waiting for my mag!

I understand that things can't stay the same,but like Peter, I'm not writing nearly as much. The discipline of the weekly prompt kept me going.

Tomás Ó Cárthaigh said...

Its an excellent magazine... well done Peadar...

Maybe youd like to do a review of the last issue of my journal... free to download online...

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, the CD is great, Eryl - I love the sound of voices!

To those of you still waiting... what anticipation! And to those of you saying you're writing less now (without the online weekly prompt)... writing is so simple... if you want to write more... do... and if in all honesty you don't... then don't. I've really enjoyed my total break from writing poetry (whilst away this year)... and now I am, quite slowly, enjoying writing more poems again.

As for reviews of other poetry mags/journals... it's not something I make a habit of really. The Bus has a special place for me as I wrote a poem for it every week for, how long was it, about a year?


Liz said...

Hi Rachel,

I'm still waiting for my copy so you've whetted my appetite!
Thanks for the mention, not sure about the two versions, originally there was a longer version of the poem so maybe it snuck in there unbeknownst to Peadar and know how some poems can be downright stroppy like that! : )
Regarding the Monday poem, I agree about how things run out of lasted a year and all good things do come to an end, it went out on a high which has a lot to be said for it.

Rachel Fox said...

Absolutely - better one good year than ten crap ones.

Emerging Writer said...

Thanks for the review. I'll go back and reread my copy now. And listen to the CD.
I'm very fond myself of Padraig Nolan's cheese sandwich poem

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, the more I read "Noon" the better it is... and that is the mark of good writing (or at least one of the marks), isn't it?

Rachel Fenton said...

It sounds, from your review, pretty spiffing - though you're a critic force to be reckoned with you give a balanced and nuanced review.

Rachel Fox said...

I don't know... it's just reactions. And I'm not completely unbiased in this case - though I've tried to keep it fair.
Think you would like the mag though, R. As much as anything for the artwork which seems pretty top quality to me.