Ian Seed, Anonymous Intruder
The blurb says that these poems 'navigate the vulnerabilities revealed in relationships, only to abandon these in a wandering search for new encounters and new truths', and this makes clear the two salient characteristics of the book: relationships and wandering. The speaker is a kind of flaneur offering us snapshots of cities and of emotional states:
In the hotel room by the railway line
a breeze blew the curtains inward,
shifting fragments of sky.
You lay on your stomach, head pressed
into your pillow, your dress bunched
over your thighs.
The snapshots don't make a narrative, either of a city or of a relationship. Indeed the book's wandering seems a deliberate evasion of narrative in favour of the quiet, ephemeral moments of insight that happen along the way. Nothing unfamiliar in that approach; of course the moments do need to add up to something analogous to narrative, a shape. I liked best 'Check Out Girls', for the way the intermittently comic tone and focus on stuff provide that shape (it feels more relaxed than, for example, 'The Familiar Dead'); the fourth section, particularly, with its weetabix and the 'fragile son' with 'a song in his head thanks to the lodger/in the spare room', is brilliant. I also liked 'Modulated Subtones', which seems to be composed entirely of asides.
The book's second half consists of prose poems. Here we get snatches of narrative, and thematically, again, explorations of identity and relationships. The structural principle of fracture is also at work, and I think it works better, or more intelligibly, than in the verse pieces. Sentences are put together suggestively, and the reader accepts the resulting paragraph less suspiciously than a passage of verse. A paragraph is a more trustworthy shape than a stanza, and for that reason it's easier, and feels less unsettling, to be fooled by it. I'm no expert on the prose poem, but that's how it seemed to me:
The plot is afoot, though nothing obvious observed. It's not right, she said, tight-lipped, standing in the queue for tickets. Turn left at the end of the building. Dreams would arrive and not be dealt with on an immediate basis. Don't assume the trick is to wake in the middle of the night.
The feeling of being seduced into taking a series of atoms as a whole is strangely pleasurable. I'm reminded of Gunther Eich's 'moles', the short prose poems he wrote late in his career. They're like samosa, small, satisfying snacks you can polish off without cutlery. And similarly moreish.