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Steve Spence

"Season Tickets" by Giles Goodland, pub. Periplum Poetry. 24 pp. £5.00

Train travel, like rivers, could be said to be a stock-in-trade subject for poets. Giles Goodland writes a wide range of poetry, from the linguistically experimental (such as "The Masses", all about insects and wordplay) to the earlier and somewhat more traditionally focussed "Littoral", a long poem based on an exploration of the South West coastline. Always expect the unexpected from Giles Goodland. The poem in question is based around a regular work journey – from London to Oxford – and combines a speculation on time and space with snapshot observation and inner monologues. He mixes a dreamy surrealist mode with a descriptive lyricism, interrupted by the vagaries of movement and chance thought.

          Move slowly through the changing language
          perhaps here disturbing a leaf or twig
          a certain glow persists in the deep west
          but largely it is the dark you push through
          through the unclear train window
          beyond the reflections you still see
          the lit towers.

          (from the opening sequence)

So far so good and we are early on introduced to the idea that this poem is ‘about’ language and movement. Lacking a fixed viewpoint is of course central to train travel and emphasises our relation to time and space. ‘Time is rent, time is many. Laughter and / slaughter, any field will do.’ This is may be a secular ‘referring’ to T.S. Eliot but its conjuring of memory and learned knowledge (what battles and what romantic occasions?) is prompted by an actual peal of laughter and perhaps the passing of a particular field, or so we might presume. Elsewhere an act of observation reveals a symmetry between physics and a surreal moment – ‘Language moves faster than us / as if work is the dream we return from’.

          The woman in the seat in front of me
          is applying eye make up; I can view her
          enlarged eye in the mirror
          by way of the dark window
          so that through the same series of
          reflections she could, if she chose to focus,
          which I doubt she will, see mine.

This is the sort of observation that Jeremy Over would have great fun with although his brand of ‘dislocated surrealism’ would probably include strong elements of found language.

Goodland incorporates literary allusions (snow and ‘peeling oranges’ – MacNeice perhaps?) with traditional lyrical snippets, interspersed with broken thought patterns and interrupted continuities yet the whole piece rattles along in a manner which keeps the pages turning even on those occasions when you are impelled to stop and think about what is going on. Although there is a literal beginning and end to this poem its starting and end points seem almost arbitrary as if you are interrupting an internal conversation which has been ongoing and continuous. There’s a mixing of what I’m going to call ‘high lyricism’ (‘Voluminous bird of evening, explain / how this is so: you spread radiance, spill / down feathers of radiance’.) with a more direct telling and there’s a charm to this fusion which makes for an enjoyable read. Any new work by Giles Goodland is anticipated with relish and "Season Tickets" is no exception.


Copyright © Steve Spence, 2019