PATRICK B OSADA: ROUGH MUSIC
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ISBN 1 904781 48 9
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This page last updated: 1st September 2009.
|PATRICK B OSADA: ROUGH MUSIC|
ROUGH MUSIC, Patrick B Osada's third collection, is a terrifically English affair: crisp, personal and steeped in the kind of disciplined 'voice of middle England' that has gone out of fashion in much contemporary verse. This voice, and the scaffolding of meter, rhyme and formal convention which supports it, is both the poet's glory and his Achilles' heel: in many of the poems, and particularly the fifty pages comprising THE WARFIELD POEMS, a controlled tirade against the unplanned sprawl of suburban new towns, it achieves a wonderfully plangent note — WEST END, WARFIELD:
I write where years before A Scythe and billhook stood, But I don't push a plough —- That's not my livelihood ... Instead I push these words Across a silver screen.Or — ON CABBAGE HILL:
At dusk, from off the bank Where primroses had been, We watched for wary shades: Deer, inching through the wheat.This note of sustained melancholy and regret flows like an underground stream through the whole book, bubbling up in the loud protest poems, BLIGHTED SPRING, COTSWOLD VIEW, as well as the quieter ones; QUELM LANE, 50s INCIDENT, AUTUMN FIND. In many poems the tone perfectly matches the subject matter, with both contributing to a dignified but potent objection to the despoliation of the countryside. This is not to say Osada's voice is content to stay within a single range. There are poems in the book, but particularly the second, more varied half, which step outside the realm of conservatism into more challenging territory. On Princess Margaret's death, for instance in DEATH OF A PRINCESS:
At last, in death, you find the common touch: Your place is booked to join the patient queue And feed the flames — just like the rest of us.This mordant vision forms a second spine in the collection, and one which works well to sharpen the occasionally Edwardian sombreness of its bucolic themes. It is only when Osada deliberately forces a change of pace or subject matter that the book falls down. In glaringly contemporary subjects; British surfers, a ballad for George Best, a really terrible demotic meditation on faithless casual sex, TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT, he seems much less at home, and in consequence much less sure of his material, tone and effect. Indeed, it is hard to credit that the author of lines such as
Your average bloke enjoys girls with big titsand
Through every window, open door The snow flows as it would in dreamsare one and the same. Unlike Larkin, referenced towards the end of the book in NOT AUBADE, Osada cannot mix the plangent and profane with a light touch. He is much better in the Warfield poems than in observations of social flimsiness.
Overall, the collection shows great strength of feeling and achievement. Had it been pruned to lose some of its unnecessary contemporary gestures, it could have been a compelling volume; as it stands, ROUGH MUSIC has a substantial core of finely crafted poems which will stand the test of time, even if their subjects are rapidly being bulldozed into obscurity.
|reviewer: James Roderick Burns.|