PETER DENT: SETTLEMENT
4 Cohen Close
ISBN 0 9537634 3 9
PETER DENT: UNRESTRICTED MOMENT
4b Tremayne Close
UK ISBN 1 900152 76 2
PETER DENT: ADVERSARIA
ISBN 1 900152 97 5
PETER DENT: HANDMADE EQUATIONS
Shearsman Books 58 Velwell Road
ISBN 0 907562 45 5
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This page last updated: 11th December 2007.
|PETER DENT: SETTLEMENT|
I spent an hour chasing meaning around this short pamphlet of Peter Dent's subtle but emotionally charged poetry. I didn't find it but I had a great time trying. In HANDING OVER he writes of
Darkness Seeing all that cannot be reduced To orderAnd these lines could function as a comment on the whole book. Dent's poems resist reduction; for me at least they resist interpretation too — unless, of course, interpretation means to acknowledge that in poetry of this kind 'Darkness' is always the ultimate insight. Their obscurity in no way detracts from their power of course. His poems remain, to use his words from the title piece,
Another tale we can't interrogateBut we can enjoy that tale nevertheless; we can savour
the implied Presence of somethingAnd though I can't hope to fathom the nature of that 'something' I'll happily go on chasing it around Dent's wonderfully elusive lines.
|reviewer: Paul McDonald.|
|PETER DENT: UNRESTRICTED MOMENT|
There are eighty-odd poems split into three sections. The first section
deals with the vagaries of the creation process as the artist encounters themand contains poems in preparation, or rather poems that detail the thought-processes entailed in literary creation, together with its stops and starts and fumbling indecisions. An example is from NAVIGATING:
Imagine then this making for a poem Intervals events white water churning at The ship of state 'made ready' forging Steel plate wisdom keeping nothing back No words except know perfectly the way Each side the prow they have to fallDent occasionally uses the weather as a background or as an adjunct to the mood of a poem or verse, as shown in the following examples from three poems:
look how it rains A day when skies are dangerous and cold as a morning getsHe has at times a dual obsession with words and weather, as in EXTENSION:
A morning in August early The book says trembling a hint Of mist here a softness taking The colours out of wordsThe second section of poems
acknowledges the nagging stimulus of natureThe emphasis again is on the processes of word-play, an incessant exploration of images and associations in the poet's attempted verbalizing of nature. In FOUR INVESTIGATIONS (WITH BIRDS) he writes that
Two buzzards whirl across parenthesesand WINTER ARRIVALS: RESOURCES interprets visual image in terms of linguistic analogy:
The watching over and the eye Returns it there is this A glitter on the water or is it A glitter there and water lexicon And variationThe poet deals with different seasons, the seasonal coming or going of various birds, and changes in vegetation, and with the mechanics of any linguistic rendering of what is observed. It is the weather and nature that are the catalysts for his stuttering analysis of verbal inter-play. FIRST THING has a few examples of this obsessive inter-play between surroundings and the mechanics of writing:
Weed-woven The river of shadows Shingle-broken Childhood where I Wouldn't be without These sequences as long As words are healing Held to and driven Over line-breaks to Begin again the boat Moves offScenes outside become like a canvas upon which Peter Dent does not just scribble but rather investigates the nature of that scribbling, such that his reaction to external stimuli becomes jumbled up with the stumbles and cul-de-sacs of the mechanics of language. The third section of poems
navigates 'the ordinary', its urgencies and ennui.His preoccupation, as always, is with the slippery attempt to encapsulate a scene or event, as in FROM MONOCHROME:
no matter his mind grows Dark with thinking worlds and categories Where things go who cannot bear to end The counting weighing up of chances all So brilliant in their distribution daystars He will pick somehow convert for use In miracles of colour a haul of truthThe shakiness of artistic endeavour, the strain and inevitable failure in trying to hold still any representation of a particular moment, becomes synonymous with the fleetingness of life itself and the passing of the present into a future that is as equally vague and tenuous. LAST GRAVITY deals with some of this:
Into a future like canvas Shaking the tenses rework The invisible the carried Faint words of a whisper For who will observe it This moment now leaving Is stretched to the limit The deal should we say and We've said it before of a Lifetime anchor to chanceTime and language become something beyond any control, beyond any fixity or understanding, as in MATERIAL TIME:
Knap or knop some loop whatever In the weave these places these people With their fly-blown ancient capitals And correctly dressed italics slowing Every time against the eye unsteady Eddies in the stream I can't controlIn two quotations from the final poem, PRIMARY EDUCATION, this theme of the artist/poet trying to halt time in his/her forlorn endeavour to express an external reality is shown in fact to be life itself:
Look Mummy he said the artist the 4-year old You can't stop time a pause and can you? Just self-forgetting lines a dream that gets Inside the text what is it I'm not this lifePeter Dent himself sums up the concerns of this brave and worthy collection:
Overlapping all is a detailed realisation of the slipperiness of perception and how chancy the words that conjure it.
|reviewer: Alan Hardy.|
|PETER DENT: ADVERSARIA|
Peter Dent's ADVERSARIA is a collection of poems which were written over a three-month period and read like the charting of an individual's consciousness. He manages the balance between the specific and abstraction skillfully as in MOCK HEROIC:
Up with time to spare not insignificant If you say it fast just hear things ripple In from the casement like a new day Down on the corner and excuse the dust I must keep meaning ... to a minimum Life's what it says today will make youNote, also, the allusion to Coleridge's THE EOLIAN HARP with the rippling in from the casement being heard as, similarly, the wind in Coleridge's poem ripples the strings of the lute to cause them to vibrate and produce sound.
We also see reference to older poetic styles with Dent's use of capitalisation at the beginning of lines, despite frequent use of enjambment. Inversion is also present in DOING NOTHING:
Now forward now into reverse with such A song to sing it listens knows I neverHere the inversion is heralded by the phrase 'now into reverse' — which in turn spells out one of the themes of the poem which is "flux" as is hinted at in the poem's various words and phrases: 'remix', 'fix nothing', '(repeat)', 'All change', 'removed' and 'never in one place'.
There is also frequent use of ellipses — both in the poetry's formal aspect and semantically. The formal aspects are plain to see in the already quoted samples above: with their noticeable gaps between words. Where Dent really comes into his own is with the semantic use of ellipses in combination with enjambment. For instance, take the following stanzas from CONTAINMENT UNALLOYED?
Five Ladies putting another time to shame Yet waiting someone there must be here To report on quieter tones the excited air In a field that riddles order with escapeWhen we examine the lines
Yet waiting someone there must be here To report on quieter tones the excited airwe are led to believe that they form one single sentence subject to enjambment at the junction between 'here' and 'To report'. This is so in the formal configuration of the stanzas and the obvious semantic use of the line's content. But on closer examination we see that the lines also functions elliptically — the ellipses occurring, again, at the junction between 'here' and 'To report'. This, then, not only alters the meaning of the sentence but splits it into two separate sentences. This use of ellipses and enjambment to cause ambiguity is used throughout this collection.
Dent's debt to High Modernism is also evident in his use of modernistic flourishes such as in COLLABORATION:
Well who can say how a work goes in Its wildest definitions of trust how easilyand in DOING NOTHING:
All change makes easier the explanation Don't I register the past?Dent, also, is not one to shy away from the oblique. Lines such as
The precise locations lay in wait and home (CONGRUENCE) Seeds of a plain experience whether to Leave (SAFE PREDICTION)and
The shadowy steps down which an answer Steals (NECESSARY MODE).The use of the oblique is so rare in much of British and Irish poetry that it is heartening to see it represented in this collection. All in all this collection is well worth a read.
|reviewer: Jeffrey Side.|
|PETER DENT: HANDMADE EQUATIONS|
HANDMADE EQUATIONS is Peter Dent's sixth collection of poetry and contains over eighty poems written since the beginning of the new millennium. It is beautifully produced with a cover illustration by the author. I love poetry with depth that reveals more layers of meaning as one reads. Dent's poetry certainly fits that bill, with each line subtly altering the focus of the line before, extracting as much meaning as possible from the words. It is a kaleidoscopic poetry, as he says himself in the poem AFFIDAVIT:
here every twist and turn adds Graver dazzle beauty will ache to manifestThis is poetry to make the reader sit in stillness and concentrate. Poetry that runs against the grain of our contemporary society so often obsessed with speed and easy answers. Poetry that for these very reasons perhaps risks seeming obscure to those not prepared to put the work in. For those who are prepared to put the work in the rewards are great and at its best Dent's poetry offers a dreamy lyricism laden with meaning as in RESTORATION BY DEGREE:
A reasonable assumption flawless execution surely... the wind's attracted to its height a colossus a one day gleaming shaking out what's loose no book of hours yet found to comment on her trial faith's less than eager and master masons know it putting it to the test love's lost perspectiveHe also offers us beautiful, thought provoking phrases such as, from PROSPECTING MIRRORS:
life's the better half of dream what shock is there like waking? breaking the same and different world in twoand from MUTUAL REDESIGNATION:
clairvoyance is proving the last re- liable witnessHowever his consistent use of almost exactly the same odd syntax and form becomes wearing, the reader can start to wish for a bit more variety in form. Also, much though the poems repay the hard work needed, by the end of the book I was starting to wish for poetry that yields its treasures a little more easily.
|reviewer: Juliet Wilson.|