It’s all very agreeably ... chewy ... if you know what I mean, and read aloud, it makes for an excellent work out for the maxillary muscles. As the blurb to ‘You Are Here’ accurately points out, Simon Turner does have ‘a deft touch in rendering the natural world’. But this is Post-Modernville, remember, where, within the space of a page, the nature poet can slip out of his waxed jacket and into the donnish tweeds of an arch modernist.
‘Book City’, the second section of the book, gives us poems that address language, literature and poetry in an upfront kind of way. It opens with ‘Bibliogenesis’
In the beginning was the word
In the beginning was the worsted
In the beginning was the wraith
In the beginning was the wreck
In the beginning was the wrick
In the beginning was the writer ...
and so on. You get the idea, I’m sure. There are a lot of lists here, some with biblical echoes, some with hints of indices and contents pages, and lists are interesting. Poetry loves lists; it always has. There’s something about the emotional distance they create between the words and the subject matter, a distance which the reader has to then infer and inhabit for herself. And their incantatory quality can bring out the music and mystery inherent in the otherwise mundane. There’s a lot of mystery about lists. So it’s no surprise then that much of the ‘Notes’ section deals with poems from ‘Book City’. You get a good (if sideways) sense of these poems from the following excerpts:
‘Autumn Processional was created by repeatedly mutilating an untitled poem of mine through online translation software ...’
‘Phrases in this poem originate from any number of sources, including cut-ups, mutations, spam e-mails, Donald Bartheme’s short stories ...’
‘This poem is an assemblage of phrases from ...’
‘A permutational cut-up of a paragraph dealing with the American Futurist painter
on page 174 of Michael Pye’s Maximum City ...’
Next up in the roll-call of styles is the Prose Poem, in the section titled ‘Brummagem’. These are pieces about The City, specifically Birmingham, but a Birmingham of the mind as well as the world. It’s the city in abstract, as seen by and as it relates to the poet - Eliot, Pound, MacNeice and, of course, Simon Turner - but the city in telling, descriptive, concrete detail too:
...standing on an overpass at rush hour, watching late light flare blue then gold then deep amber in the windows of towerblocks ...
Lovely, isn’t it?
Eventually we arrive at the concluding section, ‘Municipal Amenities’ in which nature and the city and language all collide in a kind of mad poetry vortex
Fraught June & the swifts feed
in clay-baked air over Marlborough Street ...
Apostrophes & ampersands
their flicking & sniping
through tough light brags bad grammar ...