An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
Leafe Press
4 Cohen Close
ISBN 0 9535401 8 X
3.50 [$7]

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This page last updated: 11th December 2007.

With the big commercial houses having shut up shop to all poets but the money spinners or the self-styled geniuses, and the smaller non-commercial poetry presses clogged up to the eyes with supplicants, what is to be done? Alan Baker, "editor, designer, promoter and distributor" and indeed desk-top publisher and printer, and all else needfull of Leafe Press has found a modest way round the problem: nine "chapbooks" in the four years of the press's existence, and if the quality of the writing generally matches that of the booklet under review, a cause for celebration and congratulation.

C.J. Allen if you have not read him before, note the name, for you will again if there's any justice (which there isn't much, I agree) has a track-record of prize-winning and being published in magazines of (I hate to say it but you know what I mean) some clout; unsurprising in view of the intelligence, wit and general entertainment value offered by his many-sided Muse though what unifies the varied contents of this booklet is precision of observation and sharpness of language. Allen seems to refuse to allow the drab unsatisfactoriness of his world largely a solitary world where he is a disenchanted observer rather than an eager participant to bog him down in misery but escapes into flights of the funny surreal in which there is a tribe in Indonesia with a strange assortment of taboos and customs

	which forbid poisoning fish, using toothpaste, touching
	the breasts of virgins or having anything to do

	with the wheel.
or Daffy Duck goes on a tour of the Inferno with Virgil. But the dull old world is there all right, underneath it all AS TODAY ANSWERS:
	The skyline, hemmed-in
	by gathering clouds,
	is a palette of greys

	perfected to accompany
	the drab, thwarted optimism
	of an overwhelmed century...
(that "overwhelmed" is unexpected, but yes, that's another way of putting it FROM A BATTLEFIELD:
	The usual battlefield topography, a wood,
	an incline, an uneven plain. A car parked
	by the roadside, a couple of people

	reading a map, pointing, then changing their minds..
And thus is the Battle of East Stoke, 1487, put into the perspective of the not-much world of the not very significant. But it's the sharpness and wit that really engage MAX MILLER AT THE HOLBORN EMPIRE:
	...A quick nod to Sidney in the pit
	who pulls up the band like an excited filly...
	Rain. Stair-rods. Sufficient
	rain to fill a wire basket.
Or, if you look for wit and observation in harness, underlined in rhyme A FIRE-ENGINE IN THE MIDDLE OF ENGLAND:
	Sunlight is chiselling chips of flint
	from the river where, lost in contentment,
	a man stands up to the waist and wades
	in the water like the Jack of Spades.
As for Copenhagen, its "end" is in the bits and pieces of the Little Mermaid in the drizzly rain and HOW COPENHAGEN ENDED:
			...the toothpick
	Gorm the Old used
	to winkle-out bits
	of fermenting herring
	from his unspeakable teeth..
I bet C.J. Allen's good on theme parks. I enjoyed his chapbook rarely.

reviewer: Eddie Wainwright.