An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
K. T. Publications 16 Fane Close
ISBN 0 907759 28 9
5.50 [10 overseas]

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Sutton Bridge
PL12 9YS
ISBN 1 903746 60 4

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This is Michael Bangerter's second poetry collection. Wide ranging in subject matter, the 70 pages of poems are divided into two sections, VISIONS AND VOICES and AN ABSENCE OF STARS. They demonstrate careful observation, especially when connected with the natural world, together with an ability to create a poem from everyday events. The title poem, for example, catches the moment during a morning visit to the mailbox to retrieve the milk and papers, when the poet catches sight fleetingly of some wild animal.

	There was the cold fell stare;
	no quarter given in its eye;
	each pied hair on the long back;
	and the naked tail, curving over.
This is followed by SPOOK about a man seen rolling in a country road on a wild night, possibly hit by a car but a thorough search reveals nothing. Many of the poems are about such incidents. Others contain thoughtful comments and reminiscences of past experiences like GLANCES:
	it's glances that persist 
	yes, glances, linked to places 
	a bus stop, a pub.
Moments of perception initiated by ordinary events.

Memorable poetic images are perhaps rather thin on the ground, poems rely more on accurate description and observation and are good at describing a scene. I did like however some images in CASA FANTASMAL and THE GREEDY EARTH

	That killer Autumn's here,
	bumping off Summer with a gamy breath.
	The low sun, fractured by nervous trees
	(they know their nakedness to come),
	still warms; its job not quite done.
Several poems reflect Michael Bangerter's experiences as an actor in the theatre and on television like THEATRICALS LEAVING and drama is well described in DEATH FELL IN, when after the daily rush for the workman's train:
	...That morning,
	as steam got-up and pistons pushed,
	death fell in, headlong and chalk-faced,
	clutching a lunch box.
One is not surprised that Michael Bangerter has also written for stage and radio.

The second section contains SEASIDE, a sad commentary on the many homeless misfits one finds at seaside resorts, which also contains some strong images and good descriptive lines.

	As night comes, he waits
	for the blackening slide of the sea
	to swallow him up. A slice of moon
	like an usherette's torch
	offers an aisle for him to walk-
I like SUBTEXT a disturbing commentary a Spielberg scene , about a patient's thoughts while undergoing a hospital scan:
	You know illness now, laddie.
	You who were lithe, ever young
	have joined the brotherhood
	of the sick. In life's sentence,
	your parenthesis is fixed.
The final page or two in both the sections is devoted to haiku, not a surprise considering Michael Bangerter's ability to capture the moment in his poetry. Two haiku, in particular, appeal.
	on my starlight
and almost on the last page I like the slightly quirky:
	A stray and her litter
	in the cucumber frame
	growing kittens
Altogether FREEZING THE FRAME is a worthwhile read.

reviewer: Ron Woollard.

Michael Bangerter must be an interesting personality as, apart from writing poetry, he has a theatre and writing background as an actor, playwright and reviewer. He studied at RADA and is also a teacher. THE FAT LADY SINGS is his fourth book of poetry.

Bangerter projects, in his poetry, a free, un-selfconscious imagination. His haiku are vital, fast, celebratory. The reader feels that they are in the presence of an original voice. His poems and haiku give you a delicious, if brief, feeling of being intensely alive. Allowing a kind of transcendence of conformity, it's poetry that transforms the everyday into something new, as we can see in the first lines of an untitled poem that opens the collection:

	When frost-sharp hares
	zigzag the moor
	and soft-eyed deer
	have leapt my fence
The collection ends with these lines from the title poem:
	No one much listens when
	the fat lady sings.
In between the opening and closing poems are 68 haiku, an untitled poem and a poem titled COLLOQUIUM LONGUM MEMORIA BREVIS. Everyone who reads and listens to the songs in this book will be amazed. The haiku are given plenty of space with two or one per page.

Bangerter's haiku teem with images often seemingly freely associated, hallucinatory and leaping from topic to topic. Sometimes a group of haiku follow one theme as in the first section where the poems seem to relate to a particular person:

	kissing her forehead 
	to kiss her lips

		saying our goodbyes
		we ignore
		what is behind her smile
You can imagine that these haiku relate to a loved one.

The haiku in the next section relate to the natural world: moon, stars, snow, the river, garden, rainbow, and more. You may picture the poet watching the "clouds hide the moon", you can end up by seeing him picking

	bulbs from the debris
or be startled with a familiar image given a new slant:
	2 am 
	listening to my heart
	going on and on and
You may think you're in the heart of the British countryside
	miles of hedgeless land 
	suddenly, the past
	is a patchwork of fields
then, click you're remembering times past brought to you simply by the sight of nut-brown conkers
	fallen conkers
	  their shine
	    takes one back
The haiku are restrained. They are intense. Innocence, naivety and spontaneity may be seen as disadvantages in the modern world, but these haiku capture feelings, emotions and scenes in simple language.

A stylistic variation is shown in the poems. There's a stark straightforward minimalism in the untitled short poem

	A month or so after we parted
	you wrote me a letter,
	penned hurriedly
	propped up on some
	soft shoreline.
There's the pessimism of COLLOQUIUM LONGUM - MEMORIA BREVIS:
	And I can't remember any of it.
	Well, a few scraps to be construed,
	got wrong  and those old loves? 
	their memories (it seems) are less long!
In the final section of haiku there are one or two sexual images: morning, emptying
	the ashtray  two stubs, one
	smudged with 'flush pink'

		soft porn on a large screen 
		at the bar a man orders
		         a pink lady
but there are also images of a hospice, an elderly student, a row of old men, a dentist, a dead rabbit, and much more. But there also humorous haiku. The funny, absurd poem.
	stepping back
	from the elephant god, I tread
	on someone's foot
A hyper-real memory:
	in the tree-lined lane
	sunlit vapour blossoms from
	the drenched, flattened leaves
Moving, realistic poems:
	outside a Basra mosque
	             Camel packets

		lighting our fire with
		newspapers  a whole week
		of burning deserts
Then there's the dreamlike fantasy of the final poem:
	The fat lady sweats to pirouette
	on her tiny voice,
	the other drinkers snigger
	between their gulps.
Bangerter's fluent, supple, musical and never contrived poems are a pleasure to read. It is clear that what he has accomplished in THE FAT LADY SINGS is not merely to put together a collage of poems and haiku or even a mosaic in words, but to compose a kind of mini exposition of "moments in time" that add up to a lived life.

reviewer: Patricia Prime.