DEBORAH TYLER-BENNETT: CLARK GABLE IN MANSFIELD
The King's England Press
Goldthorpe Industrial Estate
ISBN 1 872438 85 7
DEBORAH TYLER-BENNETT: THE BARDS #18
38 Pierrot Steps
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|DEBORAH TYLER-BENNETT: CLARK GABLE IN MANSFIELD|
A collection of 40-odd poems, divided into five sections. Opening poems reveal the poet's love of Scotland and its spirit and history, as in JOURNEY FROM SCOTLAND:
Mist battled hummocks and the train's sure speed play tricks — wraiths duelling on debated ground, wind sounds swords singing, old sagas are freed, dead warriors make air skirl for miles around.Another section of poems deals with her childhood memories of the East Midlands, strong in evocation of familial roots. Other sections deal with visits to Paris, Calgary in Canada, and Ireland. Her poems revolve around a present clothed in the memories and myths of the past; they embrace an experience that is temporally wide-sweeping in its accommodation of past and present. This is shown in a piece, SONG OF EMBER DAYS, about a poetess of the seventeenth century, who was accused in her day of writing bad songs and, maybe for that reason, was buried face down:
Listen, winds harry her bad songs, heather chafes with them, boxing hares form stresses. Sleet slings refrains, stings greet your wintering cheek.Deborah Tyler-Bennett's poems demand attention and achieve effectiveness through a succession of precisely-crafted images, as in GEOGRAPHY LESSONS:
Ancestors are breath on window panes — a few survive in photographs, are ferns leaning toward haloed light.One poem, LETTER, is written as if by her great grandmother to her husband who had died in an accident:
This is the letter where I tell you how strong your girls were, who grew knowing you as a photograph's coal-eyed stranger, or empty blazer hanging between winter coats.CUT OUT centres on an old cut-out photograph which hides more than it reveals, and allows the poet to conjure images out of the alluring uncertainty, the elusive pull of the past:
Carefully sliced, as if she was first knife-bite in a wartime wedding-cake. Exiled by an angry mother on behalf of a jilted son.The themes central to her work come to a summation in CLARK GABLE IN MANSFIELD, where family memories and a photo of the actor's wartime visit express her treasuring of, and elation at the past:
Still I see him, standing hand in pocket, as if Mansfield was glamorous Palm Springs and not a place to make his spirits dive. I keep him like a picture in a locket.Incisive, pared-down use of language is shown in RESERVATIONS where, on a visit to a museum in Canada, her imagination is once again fired by old photos' images:
Tsuu T'ina people caught on camera, age-spotted like the flattened backs of hands, proud riders stare from yellowing grasslands where falcons repeat like a stammerer.Her fascination with the past and her and our ancestors is often linked with the power of old photos to conjure images from that past and bring truths home to the present. A beautiful poem, PLAIN SPEAKING, inspired by her visit to Canada, is written from the perspective of the land on which various abuses over the centuries have been carried out by hunters and now by litter-strewing tourists and such; the land herself (or himself) concludes that
Maybe they knew me best who danced for rain, for harvest, who were named from my fauna — Crazy Horse, Spotted Tail, Sitting Bull, Little Raven, maybe I knew them best whose blood fed me as it should not have done, they ghost dance on me still.Taut, observational imagery is shown in GALERIES LAFAYETTE:
Exotic parrot on a plain, dun perch she's trying costume-jewellery, see her lurch before the mirror, jade-beads swinging.There is also fine imagery in BY PATRICK KAVANAGH:
And when it drizzles, I think of sitting next to Kavanagh's bronze double, wiry bones welded to canal-bench. No flayed cuff-ends or split pockets but vein- branched trousers, exposed gristle, his cross-legged presence right in rain. Eric Morecambe spec frames dripping.This is a collection that is well worth exploring.
|reviewer: Alan Hardy.|
|DEBORAH TYLER-BENNETT: THE BARDS #18|
THE BARDS # 18 is a series designed to showcase the work of individual poets. The slim booklet under review is Deborah Tyler-Bennett's PULP FICTION COUPLE: VINCE & LOLA.
Tyler-Bennett has had a distinguished career so far in her writing. She is a poet, short fiction writer, and illustrator with over 300 poems published in journals and anthologies. A collection of her poems, CLARK GABLE IN MANSFIELD, was published in 2003 and she is working on a second collection.
Flick through Tyler-Bennett's PULP FICTION COUPLE: VINCE AND LOLA, and be arrested by her words. Very serious work, this, but otherwise filled with wonder, like WREN'S WREATH and THE MAN WHO IS NOTHING. Her poems are fresh and interesting. Tyler-Bennett is the kind of writer who takes a vaguely interesting subject and turns it round and round, finding her own angle.
In WREN'S WREATH, for example, the central subject is the wren with its
Clarion call, glass-boned body, darting, dabbing oak-leaf, hedgerow ruling chieftain.A simple refrain echoes throughout the poem with the call
Come today, or not at all, today, or not at all . . .which takes the poem from being merely descriptive to being a love poem.
In THE MAN WHO IS NOTHING, Tyler-Bennett draws a picture of a man who moves through life seemingly meaning nothing to anyone with whom he comes in contact. A strange encounter takes place in which people look past him into the next room, a feeling that matches the inner turmoil over his delusion that he could ever be part of life.
You say you see me but how come you look straight past my shoulder to the next room?LACE MARKET HOTEL BAR, NOTTINGHAM, takes us to the centre of the lace-making industry. The persona finds herself in a hotel bar where
Table-tops swim with low candle flame, Made votive by tea-lights. Only us in here. Coffee-matic whine and buzz.The poem shows the persona returning to familiar territory, which has been subsumed by modernity. Tyler-Bennett's lines here are brilliantly fluid and capture the ambience to perfection.
The last poem in this pamphlet is COUNTING HAGS UNDER A COLD MOON. The poem deals with Europe's hags, which the poet names as Black Annis, Callieac Bheur, Berchta, Cally Berry, and others. Here she captures the essence of myth. What impels her? Is it admiration or fear? The following quote is taken from the section entitled AUNT ARIE, BEFANA, MOTHER HOLLE.
Grandmother glimpses Befana, hustles toddlers indoors before live coals, scatter from crone's hem. Silently, hags traverse towns, cities . . . Big freeze in their wake, milky land locked, candles lit in front of shops.I came away from this brief selection of poems full of admiration for Tyler-Bennett's work and her ability to pin down the psychological dynamics of people under pressure, the capturing of a bird's flight and challenge of discovering the winds of change and making them part of her subject matter. Her apparently effortless writing, her dry-as-a-bone humour, make the subjects of this world tolerable.
|reviewer: Patricia Prime.|