An independent small press poetry review

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Original Plus
17 High Street
CA15 6BQ
ISBN 0 9546801 1 1

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An eclectic, slightly overlong (eighty-odd) bunch of poems ranging over a number of issues and themes from murder, women, childhood, and mental health to war. Some poems bulge with reminiscence, as HER GREEN LAP where as an eighteen-month-old launched on a sled down a hill

	I laughed and strained to clutch the wary birds

	and offer them the joy of my first knowing
	of the first time of the world.
Childhood scenes are strongly, lovingly etched; in VISTA Paul Lee gazes down the street towards the church:
	Look down these forty years, feel the chafe
	of khaki cotton, the hot slabs pressing
	your unsocked sandals, hear your brother's pram
	creak on shushing wheels, smell the mingle
	of melting tar, bark and heated dust,
	your lolly sweet beneath the same limes.
Evocative flashes of concrete, visually-concise memories occur throughout the selection; MY FATHER'S HOUSE recalls
			when you were ten,
	slogging home, ravenous for supper,
	from some small adventure,
	booty of a late apple, half-eaten,
	or clutch of slithering chestnuts
	forgotten already in your pockets.
Memories do not have to be twee; Lee is quite content to work to recapture harsher, less child-like moments, as in THE FEAST OF CHRIST'S NATIVITY:
	blushing, the day when mind and body baulked,
	sodden with spirits, pre-seizure, succussive,

	and at a small hour unknown to dawn,
	the toilet bowl received your brandy yawn.
In INSIDE THE DOLL MUSEUM this theme of capture and definition is elaborated as rows of dolls face the visitors that crowd in:
				I offer you freedom,
	I can improve what you thought was perfect,
	preserve it in porcelain, rubber, cloth or bisque,
	hold it forever still at that defining moment.
Lee creates tight, at times metaphysical imagery to sculpt a scene, as in LEOPARDS:
	On my right, above the sine curve of her sleeping body,
	a try-square of light tests the curtains for ninety degrees:
	on my back, the up-light shade is the Universe's navel;
	on my left, the wash of speckled light on the wall
	is the Milky Way filling the plane of the Galaxy.
Some poems are centred on problems of mental health and hospital visits. MINORITIES deals with patients and staff, and the consequent interplay between perceptions of health, and any spurious definition or expectation of it:
	patients are working through the stage of bed and drugs,
	but still veer from the fictitious norm of mental health 
	that majority opinion for which I can't recall the referendum 
	round which the staff cluster, the unit's minority.
RE-INVENTION is a splendid, self-deprecating yet critically-astute poem on pill-popping:
	What was, where is, whose was my life pre-medication?
	Who cares? My future's chemical, perfecting re-invention.
Edgy, disturbing moments are described, as in SILENCE:
	The sound of silence is you,
	whose listening's autistic,
	an event horizon
	where darkness and silence, endless,
	face each other down.
THE WASP CLOCK is an original piece where in a holiday cottage the tick-tick emanating from a wasp's nest in the brick wall had seemed the ticking of a clock; after the wasps have been chemically exterminated
				he woke to a world that was
  							always dark,
	time having stopped. Distraught, he paced the room, the dead
	beneath his feet, their thoraxes striped yellow and black.
Poems which strive for blunt descriptiveness, occasional bit of polemics or philosophy, rather overdone word-play or something elegiac do not work as well as the more intense, personal pieces. Sexual pieces, of which there are a few, tend to be a bit traditional-male in outlook, though also self-deprecatingly aware, as in BLACK NUMBER which concludes, after a description of a female in customary titillating terms, with these lines:
	My rod was packed and loaded,
	hard in its holster.
This selection is definitely poetry which the reader is invited to take or leave; there are no nods or bows towards convention or traditions of style/feel/scene. Paul Lee tells it how he sees it, basically what it is like to be inside his head. This is abrupt, bare, straight poetry in terms of content and presentation, putting forward prose-like arguments and perspectives rather than any fanciful poetic formats or frills.

reviewer: Alan Hardy.