Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Alan Payne's Exploring the Orinoco

Pamphlets are in the ascendancy these days. If you want to read one that shows off the benefit of the form, try Alan Payne's Exploring the Orinoco, a winner in the 2009 Smith/Doorstop Book & Pamphlet Competition. Alan grew up in the Caribbean before moving to Yorkshire, and the collection is structured to reflect this movement. It begins with poems that look back at his childhood before the pivotal poem, 'Colombie', which enacts his arrival in the UK:

Fabled Plymouth.
And the journey north, by train,
to Apperley Bridge.
There, in that no-man's-land,
I tasted pickled onions.
Assumed a stranger's skin.
A worsted suit.

Thereafter the poems mainly inhabit Yorkshire, though they bring the Caribbean with them. It's rare to see a collection centred on place, but on two places, so that they reflect each other. It's a strange and interesting effect, and a coherent, likable pamphlet.


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