Monday, March 16, 2009

The Land of Green Ginger – whistlestop tour

I recently read Antony Rowland's The Land of Green Ginger, having heard good things about it from various sources. It's very, very good stuff.

I think my favourite pieces are the comic ode-ish monologues on 'Pies', 'The HIstory of the Beard', 'The Italian Bob', 'London Particular' and 'Cucumber'. They clearly benefit from trawls through historical lexicons, but the catches aren't wasted by being using in a scholarly way. Instead, we get the flavour of, ooh, Hogarth or Smollett: 'Go and comb your peruke in an opera box, beaux-face'.

Also interesting but in a different way are the explorations of family history in poems addressed to male relatives. It might have been odd to have the two sorts of poem rubbing up against each other, but it works because the family poems also ruck up the texture of language, in a quieter but effective way. Several times I thought at first I'd read a misprint when Rowland alters a cliche or idiom to make something new. Strange stuff.

What else? 'Moose' reminded me of Al Purdy, and not just for the subject matter. And 'I.M. Deltics, 1977-81', about railways and longing, is in a way the 'straightest' poem in the book, but not the weaker for that.


Post a Comment

<< Home