An independent small press poetry review

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Leafe Press
4 Cohen Close
ISBN 0 9535401 3 8
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Adrian Buckner could serve as a model for aspiring poets. In a booklet that is beautifully designed and printed (as well as published) by the Leafe Press, he gives us twenty-four paradigm poems. The themes are traditional childhood, growing old, nature and the countryside, rain, cricket and World War I and they are explored in the contemporary way, in a style that is personal yet detached, with everything very understated, and with touches of self-deprecation and irony that do not detract from the essential seriousness.

Consider, for example, the opening of EASTER FALLING, the poem that contains the oxymoron that gives the whole collection its title:

	Good Friday Morning. Careless of one difference
	in this day  an altered bus schedule 

	I'm under my umbrella, a one man queue
	watching the rain that has come down for a week

	come down again, my gaze narrowing
	to the kerb's pulpy slick of litter.
As the example shows, Buckner is fond of the non-rhyming couplet: fifteen of the poems following this form. Some people might think this is just free verse, and easy, but it is not: it is technically demanding to keep the proper balance between rhythmic and semantic concerns, and Buckner handles this and other forms with great skill.

As EASTER FALLING also shows, Buckner is very concerned with rain, rain as rain and rain as image. Five of the poems involve rain, including BRIEF SLEEP. In this poem the third and fourth of the four quatrains encompass not only rain but several more of Buckner's themes:

	The rain outside is known as suburban
	when watched through glass
	on weekday afternoons: the little falling
	into a life or making a garden grow 

	never on a gale to blow fences down,
	it feels like something settled for,
	disclosing itself without comment
	one afternoon in the middle of my life.
These lines again beautifully illustrate Buckner's formal command. However, there can be minor problems in bringing together a small collection of poems that were once separate in time and space. For example, in EASTER FALLING there are "trails of beading rain" on the bus window; in AFTER RAIN two cherries are "beaded with rain." Even with such a good image, twice within a few pages is possibly once too often.

Perhaps surprisingly, the three poems about cricket do not mention rain. One of these, A VILLAGE CRICKETER CONSIDERS HIMSELF, is a satire based on John Major's notorious reverie on the state of England when he was prime minister in 1992. Buckner's response is amusing, but I hope he remembers what John Major evidently forgot: that he was not prime minister of England, and that cricket can be discovered on village greens and playing fields in all parts of the United Kingdom.

One thing puzzled me in A VILLAGE CRICKETER, when the narrator fantasises about his skills and imagines "orientatating [sic] myself composedly under the highest skier." What has a traveller on snow got to do with it? Ah, he means "skyer" which is the version preferred by the CONCISE OXFORD DICTIONARY.

But let no potential reader be put off by my petty quibbles. This is poetry that is clever and alert, and, while always leaving the reader with something to think about, satisfying.

reviewer: Andrew Belsey.