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Adrian Buckner

"Touching Distance" by  Tim Youngs pub. Five Leaves Publications   (24 pages)

The advantage of delaying the publication of your own poetry until you have done other things (in Tim Youngs' case, become a Professor of English and written critical studies of travel writing) is that you have a good chance of avoiding the pitfalls of solemnity and pretension. If allied to a clutter-eschewing aesthetic of poetic expression, the rewards of such reticence are likely to be nourishing. There is a danger of course that this approach will produce work that treads a little too softly. I’m of the opinion that Tim Youngs’ seventeen poems in this pamphlet from Five Leaves resonate with a deft, quiet passion to satisfy all poetic sensibilities, save the florid and rhetorical.

That deftness is apparent also in the ordering of poems, the structuring of the pamphlet. The first poem “In Step” pins a childhood memory and the last is “Dissolution”. This is a playful intimation of mortality that descends in couplets, stripping the poet’s name of its letters:

……. Then, reduced

to just a consonant
ngs knew that the end

had come and so prepared
for his erasure.

gs, a glottal hiss
was all that now remained,

then the solitary ‘s’ –
genesis of sun, sea, sand

and the terminal of this.

The first eight poems between these poles take us to identified places where Youngs has worked and/or travelled in, abroad then closer to home. All present – and accomplish – a complex epiphany in plain language. Rather than reduce this set of delicate, tensile pieces by partial quoting, I prefer to consider more fully the poem “Tête - á – tête - in Bucharest” (for Mica)

The heart’s an over-determined organ,
you remarked at dinner, hailing the mind
as the tool by which poetry is learned.

That later I saw your stone eyes glisten
does not disprove you, but suggests a thought:
a metaphor of thaw in this nation
adapting to its post-communist face,

or of how deep insecurity
projects itself onto every place.

This seems to me an immaculate structure for a poem that packs so much in. The title and dedication are brilliantly deployed by the poet with his instinct for brevity and impact within a poem. This enables the clear and immediate challenge of Mica’s address to drive the momentum of the poem from the first syllable. The idea expressed in these first three lines is so complete that the marked tonal shift to the reflective poet/dinner companion in the second stanza does not jolt in the slightest. The elegant, prose-y, rhythm adjusting confidence of ‘suggests a thought’ seems as natural as the detonating urgency of the opening. From there the poem unfolds its political and philosophical point (yes, poems this good can break the rules about not ‘making a point’) and for good measure uncovers a perfect instance ( in the last line’s ‘every’) how consummate handling of stress can kill the need for italicised stresses in lines of poetry.

Several of the poems that follow take an elegiac tone – the rhythms relax and wistful notes are struck in pieces such as “How can I tell” and “Wall”. The quality is maintained through this subtle and persuasive change of gear. “The Yews” is my other choice for full quotation from a first pamphlet collection that showcases a mature poet and the wisdom of holding back.

This won’t be the night
my parents wake me
to see the shooting
stars make their magic

sky tracks, nor the time
I postpone darkness
by having Mother
explain the differences

between the ‘i’ words:
insinuate, imply, infer.
Once more I’ll scare
away fear with the glow

from our landing light
left on for me. In this
old house I know to lie
watchful of the door. 


Copyright © Adrian Buckner, 2018