An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
Redbeck Press
24 Aireville Road
ISBN 0 946980 64 0

Smith/Doorstop Books
The Poetry Business
Bank Street Arts
32-40 Bank Street
S1 2DS
ISBN 1 902382 62 5

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One of the best things I have seen from Redbeck in its era of competition publishing. Very Leeds late 90s, but the clinicality is offset by crisp interesting subjects. The writer is always in control of where the connections are going. There are sustained metaphors like the climbing wall poem THERE IS ALWAYS THE WALL, and THE ROPE, also on climbing. Whether it's a chat about Cézanne (CUBISM) or a conversation 'in a crowded cafe in Hebden Bridge' (ALL AT SEA), the images are right every time. The Russian poems add shape to the book, and again the people and places, the images, are irresistible:

	The tea is green and bitter. He adds jam. 
	There is a long pause as the sweetness dissolves. 

	'You're a lot like my wife was', he says sadly 
	and with only his word to go on, 
	it is not easy to disagree. 
There's not a lot of writing in the book. It is padded out to a 32 page pamphlet. Before we know it we've reached the end, with a strange comment on the photographer Atget:
	It is 1924 and like so much of his work 
	there is not a single person in sight. 
Not just Redbeck but previously Rockingham and Smith/Doorstop have published work by Sue Butler. What is becoming of the good old system of one poet, one publisher? What is becoming of the book every five years at most, and make sure it's a damn good one? That's just a digression in this case, because Sue Butler's pamphlet is a good one, and leaves us wishing for more.

reviewer: Sally Evans.

In this collection, many of the poems — some 50 in all, relate to Sue Butler's experiences in Russia. She has travelled widely in the country and the poems, as far as one without direct experience of Russia can judge, seem to show a deep and perceptive understanding of that country and its people. Although the poems are not overtly political THE DEATH OF STALIN reveals the ambivalent attitude of Russians on first hearing the news; this abstract also gives the flavour of the poetry and some insight into the Russian way of life:

	For days no one smoked
	or raised their voice above a whisper.
	And  though all the men went around bareheaded,
	many  struggled to conceal
	a new ease in the way they cut leather
	or fixed the wheels of carts.
	a buoyant swing in their arm
	as they broadcast seed corn,
	the kind of whistling that might slip
	into song.
Apart from reflecting Sue Butler's interest in travel, other poems describe very personal experiences. They often focus on casual events, for example, a meeting on a crowded THE NUMBER EIGHT TROLLEY BUS:
	With only one more stop to go
	a missing drain cover rocks the bus.
	In the upset my bare forearm touches yours
	and I remember we have only just met
Another chance encounter is with THE FAT MAN, whom she associates with the archangel Michael,
	on a bench by a shimmering, summer-blue lake
	we both suspect is not natural
the poem is typically full of sharp observation:
	I am glad of your jam jar glasses,
	the pink rolls of flesh at your baritone throat,
	your sweaty excess of bonhomie
Sometimes poems are darker in tone as in MAKING MARKS, a sombre tale of a murder which is covered up:
	all the doctor can do
	is suggest a chiffon scarf be used
	when the body is laid in state,
	to stop foreign dignitaries noticing
	how puce swellings go all the way round.
	On the official form he writes TUMOUR
	presses a seal into soft wax,
	reluctantly signs his name
Other poems also show this kind of disturbed world, often imaginatively expressed. The last poem in the collection, however, I HAVE NOT TRAVELLED FAR shows that a degree of acceptance has been reached:
	I have given up
	looking for battles to wage; only places
	to shelter where I can sit
	undisturbed, for free
This is Sue Butler's fourth collection and several poems in the collection have previously appeared in various poetry magazines. The fifty or so poems in her latest collection give an impression of a restless and apprehensive spirit reaching out towards some kind of reconciliation.

reviewer: Ron Woollard.