Pamphlet Pandemonium

Radio Archilochos, Kelvin Corcoran (16pp, £4, Maquette Press)
The Hospital Punch, Sally Flint (16pp, £4, Maquette Press)
Retrieval Systems, Peter Dent (14pp, £5, Knives Forks and Spoons Press)
Crazy Days, Carole Coates (18pp, £5, Wayleave)
Dragon Child, Marina Sanchez (32pp, £3.50, Acumen)
Some Poems 2006-2013, John Seed (pp35, £6.50, Gratton Street Irregulars)
A Plume of Smoke, Jos Smith (16pp, £4, Maquette Press)
Monkey Puzzle, William Gilson (20pp, £5 Wayleave)
By the Light of Day, Pauline Keith (20pp, £5, Wayleave)
In Agitation, Ian Davidson (24pp, £5, Knives Forks and Spoons Press)

Kelvin Corcoran's Radio Archilochos may look like its been printed by the people that brought you the parish magazine but, so we're told, it is what's inside that counts. Happily, the pamphlet is a light and breezy tale of Archilochos 'the first person to write in the first person', a poet of ancient Greece of whom only fragments of poetry survive. Corcoran reinvents Archilochos as a man of simple pleasures, a lover of wine and women who spends the majority of the time getting pissed. Radio Archilochos is an entertaining affair, colloquial, amusing and easy to read. I'd have been happy to have flicked through further fables.

I've no seamless link into the next title, so just think of your own. Sally Flint's
The Hospital Punch is a fantastic introduction to her poetry. The opening image of a syringe being inserted into an orange is strong and many more magic moments follow. Sally Flint's poetry has a natural feel, her characters and the hospital wards all spring to life and linger as the page turns. The Hospital Punch shows a poet brimming with potential finding the right words and the right settings for her talents. Highly recommended.

The last three words of Peter Dent's
Retrieval Systems are 'what the heck', which is an accurate summation of my thoughts on reading the poem. Retrieval Systems is a one poem pamphlet, it has twenty stanzas of five lines each, which make it rather short. I've not managed to work out what the poem is about, it is decidedly opaque, but I can say the stanzas have a haiku like feel in their imagery and strangeness. There are undoubtedly some nice lines in Retrieval Systems, though if you had paid £5 for the privilege, you may well have expected to find a few more.

In Crazy Days we find Carole Coates cataloguing the mental disintegration of her husband who suffers from an unspecified condition. The poems are rich in detail, it is straight biography in verse. The writing is emotive and we get a sense of the loneliness and confusion that come with losing someone to illness, even if they are still there physically. Many of the poems speak of happier times: the first bed the couple slept in, a holiday in Venice. Crazy Days is a short collection of poems that says a great deal about what it means to love someone and what we go through when they suffer.

Parallels to
Crazy Days can be drawn to Marina Sanchez's Dragon Child, in which Sanchez writes of her experience of raising a daughter with CHARGE syndrome, a complex syndrome that effects each individual differently, common ailments at birth are heart defects and breathing problems. Though not all mothers will have gone through the particular issues Marina Sanchez has faced, all will be able to relate to the wishes and worries she has for her child. The poems begin with her daughter's birth and follow her growing up, going to school and eventually, in the final poem, leaving home. Dragon Child is a well written work that comes straight from the heart.

Some Poems 2006-2013 is the understated title of John Seed's short and sweet pamphlet. The poetry takes the eastern influences of the imagists and moves them around contemporary times and locations, from the streets of a dreamy London, to the American East Coast, “is this hard wind blowing all the way to T'ai-shan?” wonders the well travelled John Seed. All sights and sounds are relayed with neatness and delicacy, with a sparseness that allows time for the words to settle, like leaves, falling into Autumn until they become the pages of a book.

Jos Smith's principle subject in
A Plume of Smoke is an oil slick, in particular the world's first major oil slick, which happened when the Torrey Canyon ran aground off the coast of Cornwall in March 1967. Jos Smith writes with a keen eye for detail, surveying the damage and destruction in well crafted verse, its awe at the power of the natural world sometimes recalls Ted Hughes. A Plume of Smoke is another intriguing pamphlet from the Maquette press, all of whose titles are restricted to a print of 100 copies – so you'll be lucky to get hold of one. Happily for me, I've got three!

There are two important places in William Gilson's Monkey Puzzle: New England, where the poet was born and Cumbria, where the poet lives. The puzzle confronted by Gilson is essentially: how did I end up here? In 'A room with a piano' Gilson falls asleep and wakes up forty years later 'in the northwest of England/ where it rains, rains, rains'. Monkey Puzzle is a reflection on how a sense of place effects our identity and visa-versa, its done with a certain amount of style and originality and is an engaging read.

By the Light of Day Pauline Keith writes of her memories of the family slaughter-yard. The poetry is hard edged and not for the feint hearted; bones, carcasses and blood spill into the imagery. This gruesome environment has clearly left a huge impression on Pauline Keith, like the farm that dominates Seamus Heaney's early poetry, it is a world she can't leave behind. We see her as an adult in the kitchen in the final poem 'Flaying Knife' with the knife her uncle used to 'slit a throat for bleeding'. Now the knife is placed 'in my kitchen block with the carvers' but despite its new setting it still speaks of its bloody past, much like the author.

Ian Davidson spends a lot of the time in
In Agitation looking skyward, his poems frequently features birds, clouds and stars, if its not the sky he's staring at then its the sea. However, these are all perfectly nice images for poems and Ian Davidson writes well, with a highly distinctive style. The one criticism I will raise is the pointless hy-
-phenation of words the do not need any hy-
-phenation. Doubtless this is done for an effect, but whether the effect Davidson was going for was a slight annoyance is his question to remedy.

A final thought, talk show host style, after reading these ten pamphlets: its a pleasure to read so much good writing. I raise my glass to the efforts of the poets above, chin chin!

   © Charlie Baylis 2015