NEW HOPE INTERNATIONAL REVIEW

An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
PAUL MCDONALD: CATCH A FALLING TORTOISE
Cinnamon Press
Ty Meiron
Glan yr Afon
Tanygrisiau
Blaenau Ffestiniog
Gwynedd
LL41 3SU
UK
ISBN 978 1 905614 22 6
7.99

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PAUL MCDONALD: CATCH A FALLING TORTOISE

Paul McDonald's poetic vision reaches out from seedy pubs and clubs to more exotic locations both east and west, but its main focus is on the grottier estates and run-down inner city areas. The vision is sceptical critical but not condemnatory as it takes in the everyday lives that are the subjects of many of the poems. Fortunately it can find some humour, even if mostly through irony.

For as a supporter of Walsall Football Club (so we are told) McDonald must know the fine line between laughter and despair. So there are plenty of losers in these poems, from estate teenagers on the margins of society, through the "man who swims alone at the public baths" and Richard who "smells of loneliness," to the country sheep farmer so isolated from society that he is in effect a CASTAWAY.

Perhaps the characters are unbalanced, or perhaps they are responding sanely to the insane circumstances that define their day-to-day lives. Either way, the portraits are drawn with great skill and sympathy.

But you'll also find Charles Bukowski and Delmore Schwartz in these poems, and Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein and Jackson POLLOCK:

	Someone's had a fit
	in the slaughterhouse of oils
	where action fought direction, and won.
In spite of the advice in the title poem, it's not that easy to catch a falling tortoise, but Paul McDonald can manage it, though "much" seems to deflate the point somewhat:
			There's nothing
	much to match it in the satisfaction stakes.
	I recommend you catch one 
	next time you see one falling from the sky.
But overall McDonald's language is sharp, street-smart and often lyrical. He is especially good at last lines that illuminate from below the poem that they support. Here is the end of MR BRAY'S TOUPEE, in which the poet looks back on an adolescent romance interrupted by the fake-haired teacher:
	Like Mr Bray's toupee it couldn't grow.
	Was it just a surface lustre that impressed us?
	It felt real enough to fool us for a while.
These poems don't try to fool anyone. They give it to you straight.

reviewer: Andrew Belsey.