Monday, February 27, 2012

James Davies, Plants

James Davies' Plants isn't about the green things – instead it's a book of plants as in substitutes for the poems that should have been here; a bit like a book of sicknotes. In the first half, 'Unmades', each page has a title, and then a brief description of the circumstances explaining why there's no poem. For example:

Cat Stand Off

Considered 15th March 2006
Not written same day

Maybe this sounds like a thin joke to sustain over half a book. All I can say is that everyone I've seen with the book sits there grinning and reading out examples to each other, and you can't say fairer than that.

In the second half we get some actual poems, written in a comic, disjunctive half-sense full of invented words and cartoonishly strange images. It might look knockabout at times, but this sort of writing is very hard to achieve, and I was pretty much bowled over by it. Some bits I liked:

Because we was pudding and cream to me
    this doll of course
beavers vs clouds
                      : a wine at


I went into the night pletch
   My jelly was green ok?
Mike's was diamond blu
He had the steak and I had the chips

('My Name is Ray')

a pixie in the wood with a hood
near enoki:
      gruft of hamwick
             parley burl
                       chinese muppet shows
                                      the extras from top gun


a monkey with a band aid
    a band aid on a monkey
a monkey with a trumpet
    a trumpet on a monkey's head
a donkey with a banker's hat
    a duck with a traveller's cheque

(the sestet of 'Dieter Roth Shopping Powder')

I also liked '16 Glass Bead Games', a series of diagrams whose labels ('Luck (positive)', 'Intention and outcome', 'Is it OK to forget love') may be titles, or what the arrangments of beads mean or represent, or something else again; and the vaguely Kennardish prose poem 'Kate Bush', a sequence of illogical but somehow coherent paragraphs intermittently populated by famous and non-famous people.

A charming and mainly hilarious book. (Other reviews by Tony Lopez and Colin Herd.)


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