Tuesday, May 22, 2007



peel me a zibibbo by Pam Brown
(never-never books, 2006)

The first page of this chap tells us it contains ‘five poems for friends’. I straight away thought of how I am not one of these friends. Should I read the poems? I got an email from Pam once, asking me to pass along a url to someone, but that’s all. We have never spoken. Well anyway I did read the poems. I guess, at least, I do not have to make any kind of disclaimer in this review. The chap was not dedicated to me. But, if you read this chap -- as you may well -- you will get acquainted with the friends in question. It is a good thing. They include people from the title poem:

hi Kurt                               hi John T,
hi Nick,    Paddy,                hi Shakespeare,

And there are others. These helloes are indicative of the poetry’s relaxed and comfortable tone. Perhaps it is familiar -- I have heard it called ‘journalistic poetry’ -- and perhaps there is a tradition of it, existing somewhere. I don’t know. In my definition it’s a type of writing that admits some very personal elements, because, the poet is talking to you the reader, but also to her friends at the same time, and moreover doing it on purpose. What you tell your friends might differ from what you tell an audience. Your friends will ‘get’ your specific references. But will the international poetry reader have much tolerance for a poem like ‘Sydney poets’? Will they have been here:

time ticks on: quarter to
four Saturday arvo,

and do they know what it’s like? Are they likely to have read At the flash and at the Baci by Ken Bolton? I’ve done these things -- Glebe is particularly nice & nostalgic for a summery afternoon book-launch -- but to answer these ponderings I would say it doesn’t matter. Like allusions to classical figures and tropes in other works, you might feel invited to follow these tangents and discover more. Or not. Brown’s poem ‘Day and night, your poems’ led me to pull out the Bolton poem in question and delight in a sort of dialogue. But then that isn’t absolutely essential, as the poem is an absorbing meditation that any poetry reader (or person, if those things differ) will ‘get’. For example, ‘Day and night, your poems’ goes like this at one point:
                                             what do I remember ?
            how many lines from the hundreds and hundreds, probably
thousands, of poetry collections I’ve read
               and the poems submitted to the magazines I’ve edited?

Poets will make up a big part of any poetry audience. And poetry is about communication; this naturally works on levels both micro & macro. It should be acknowledged in the poetry.

Like an unstructured ‘what have you been up to?’ letter these poems invoke and roam over many images, topics. The focus shifts back and forth between Brown’s personal life and culture in general and it works. I particularly liked this movement: the small becomes a larger question, or vice versa. ‘Today there is much more heritage than there used to be’ begins by discussing anachronistic homes & social optimism, but then the view disrupts abstract thought, and

a lightning flash
             interrupts computing --
I imagine your stormy view
over Elizabeth Bay, beautiful
night-dark,     night-light,

It is nice to follow a poem as it makes an unexpected change in direction or momentum. Nice is the word for it (I stand by the word). Sometimes a change is only indicated by the ambiguous asterisk, and this is valid, the day might have changed even the subject matter or the memory. Like Faulkner’s changes in The Sound and the Fury interruptions are not spelt out, simply gestured towards. Yes I like that.

But what the hell is a zibbibo? I thought it was some kind of exotic banana, or something, and that felt like a cool allusion -- it’s not just a banana she wants a friend to peel for her, it’s a suave variety I’ve never heard of (ah the exoticism of other people…). But then later I googled it, and it seems the zibibbo is a specific variety of grape. Even better. Grapes are hard to peel -- the image of poet as a roman emperor is funny.

Now I become hesitant about saying too much more, or giving more examples of the passages I liked most. And that’s because the book is too small. Despite my very positive feelings about these poems, this is a serious point I’m making. Pam you need to give us more! Five poems only touches the surface of where you are at (I conjecture). I really enjoyed peel me a zibbibo, I enjoyed being privy to the way a poet thinks, writes, and converses at the same time. But I also sensed sadness -- doubt, nostalgic memory, people who are anywhere in the world but with you…and I want to know more about that.

Oh what the hell, here’s an image to close (again, from the title poem):

awake and refreshed
               tho with nothing on the page


Derek Motion is currently a phd student &tutor at Charles Sturt University. He spends much time reading blogs &attempting to discover new chapbooks from all over the world. He also writes poems, some of them he posts online at http://derekmotion.blogspot.com/


At 4:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a considered, frank, and heartfelt review unburdened by the usual clap-trap of poetry-speak. Go, Derek.


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