I really wanted to like this 120 page anthology, I picked it up and thought that anything sandwiched between the pages of such a cringing, clichéd, punning title can not be all bad; my desire was to rescue all the poems trapped therein and to say something wonderful about the five contributors thus freeing them from the embarrassment of just being there.
The introductory blurb told me that ‘these writers’ stories are universal’ and so I pondered on the meaning of the word ‘universal’ and came up with; ‘common to all purposes, conditions, or situations; expansive, common to all people; beyond this world…’ and there were various other definitions but they all implied that universal had a meaning that related to the common experience; easily recognised… mmm; well, these poems are certainly easily recognised, you can hear them, or poems very like them, at any given poetry venue in any given City or village on this planet (I can not speak for the universe unfortunately).
Sharia Kharif (AKA ‘Suga’ and whose bio tells us she is a teacher, hair designer and cake decorator) for example comes up with; ‘I can’t think! I can’t think!/ My mind stopped spinning the day you stopped singing./ I can’t think!’ which has a cool rap beat and some pleasant internal rhyme and is the beginning of a medium length poem which repeats the ‘I can’t’ theme endlessly; ‘I can’t sleep’, ‘I can’t see’, ‘I can’t… breathe..’ etc and she reads well (I know this because on the web pages of Kobalt books she reads a poem from this collection called Call Me which for some reason I can not find in this collection)… but eh; mmm, forgive me but it’s maybe just a little too familiar, commonplace perhaps, maybe even unoriginal…
And so I went back to the Kobalt webpages and listened to Jacole Kitchen whose poems have a heavy tendency towards obvious rhyme and listened to her reading Feeling Lucky which actually is in the anthology (I mean really in there, as opposed to Suga’s online offering, which Kobalt says ‘is’… but actually ‘isn’t’… if you see what I mean). It’s a longish poem about how this central character (female) is desirous-of this other character (probably male but not specified) and the central character implores ‘Let me be your plaything/ Your summer fling’ which is fine sentiment but possibly politically suspect and states also ‘…let me be your present/ You’ll be pleasantly surprised’ Note that internal rhyme again just like Suga and the clever use of the word ‘present’ with its double meaning; ‘present’ as a gift, ‘present’ as here and now in time. Takes your breath away doesn’t it? I am asking; doesn’t it??? (Answers on a postcard please)
You can hear the other three contributors online reading extracts from this anthology and they include Cedric Mixon and it is perhaps worth reproducing the whole of one of his poems for you here as his poetry occupies most of this anthology;
By My Side
By my side…
Walking with me…
Sitting with me…
Just your company is enough.
No matter what they say,
I know how I feel,
I know what you’ve done,
Blends with nothing.
Your miraculous ways
Who desire sight.
Now this could be a poem about God couldn’t it? With its reference to ‘miraculous ways’ etc. It could also be a simple poem about some other living individual; lost, deceased, gone away… and I could imagine that preceding the polite ripple of applause at a poetry reading would come a collective sigh from the attentive audience; ‘Ahhh, isn’t that a nice poem…’ ripple ripple… ‘next poet please…’ But dare I suggest that five minutes later you may well have forgotten it in its entirety?
The other two contributors are Heather Smith and Monica Hill. The Bio blurb about Ms Smith states, rather recklessly, that she is ‘…an outstanding poet with a beautiful spirit, who is destined to inspire those who listen to her words.’ Presumably words such as these from Poisonous Love; ‘love is a poison -/ giving us the reason we crave/ to just sit back and fail.’ Inspirational! There is just no other way to describe such an insight is there? And Ms Hill (AKA: Diselysia. Bio blurb reads; ‘…her newest venture as a talent manager and agent for other… word artists… keeps her passion for words going.’) offers us; ‘I remember the song of loneliness/ That I’d never managed to miss/ The feelings of solitude that now I long to kiss/ I remember the wretched pain of hating the rain/ The impurity that is vain that keeps me going insane…’ (From, wouldn’t you know, a poem entitled; Untitled) And there it is yet again; the familiar internal rhyme, taken here to almost absurd lengths; ‘pain’, ‘rain’, ‘vain’, ‘insane’…
So what am I saying? OK; time to come clean, to call a spade a spade and not a semi-mechanical earth redistributing tool. These poems are universal, as stated, or even univer-soul if that is the way the anonymous editor would have it; but universal in the sense of ‘commonplace’, ‘ordinary’, even ‘humdrum’ maybe. I so wanted to like this collection and I really do believe that if these five were the star turns at my local poetry venue I’d be suitably entertained, but the bio-hype is tedious and bloated and the poems, in the main, are composed of rather rappy rhyme and clichéd sentiment. And so, you may well be asking; am I condemning all of these five contributors? Tarring them all with the same brush? Well, what else is there to do except grade them in order of awfulness? To suggest in some apologetic way that Poet X is better than poet Y on a scale of mediocrity is pointless. I can not do that. Sadly there is nothing that is new within this anthology, as Mr A would have it in Auden and Isherwood’s The Ascent of F6 the anthology contains: ‘Nothing remarkable in any way’… And that I think is sad, is symptomatic of what is happening to much modern poetry… but then, I am an ancient of days who tends nowadays to read such diverse poets as Milton, Pope, Robert Sheppard, A D Winans and Allen Fisher, an ancient who tends to feel that poetry is not only AN art it is THE most difficult art and thus should be the domain of those who have not only lived a life but who have understood that the whole point of poetry is to present something original and to present that something in an original manner.
I wish these alleged poets well, I really do, I hope that they make it so huge out there that they can, in some future time and place, hurl my words back in my teeth, I hope it… but I doubt it… and that, as I said, is sad.
© copyrght Alan Corkish 2006.