NEW HOPE INTERNATIONAL REVIEW

An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
GEOFF STEVENS: CROSSING THE TAMAR
Curlew Press
Hare Cottage
Kettlesing
Harrogate
HG3 2LB
UK

GEOFF STEVENS: THE BARDS #2
Atlantean Publishing
38 Pierrot Steps
71 Kursaal Way
Southend on Sea
Essex
SS1 2UY
UK
10p

GEOFF STEVENS: THE PHRENOLOGY OF ANAGLYPTA
Bluechrome Publishing
PO Box 109
Portishead
Bristol
BS20 7ZJ
UK
ISBN 1 904781 04 7
7.99

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GEOFF STEVENS: CROSSING THE TAMAR

Sometimes when one is writing reviews the very nature of the material begs the question of what stance one takes in relation to it. Had Geoff Stevens been in one of my creative writing classes my emphasis would have been on encouraging its strengths and abilities which are undoubtedly present. But once people have put their work into the public domain, they invite comparison with seasoned, and skilled practitioners of the art of poetry. Geoff Stevens' work is obviously fuelled by passion and commitment as well as imagination, but would benefit from shifting from the general to the particular, which would clarify his expression and might win the reader's allegiance which at the moment, however willing, is left with little to engage strongly with..

This said however, this small booklet of 9 poems has some interesting and memorable images from THE MORE DECEIVED:

	sun shines on faces
	smoulders on flags
from HOME FROM ST. IVES:
	... I can see the chisel marks
	made upon my alloyed imagination
from SKIN AND HIDE MERCHANTS:
	never ... in the music of the skies
	have they looked for feathers, or for peace of mind.
The last poem, LOCAL APATHY, has an endearing quality of slightly subversive collusion with the landscape's secret dreams. But despite this sense of intimacy it is a little unclear as to where our allegiances are supposed to lie. With the landscape? because at least it has the ability to dream or against its naivete, its 'still believing in democracy' and 'never ever complains'. Or perhaps the poem is hinting at a moral if you want to be like other landscapes, its not enough to dream, you'll have to act like them too, 'throw a tornado' and show 'a little rumble of dissent'.

Other poems show this 'rumble of dissent' but exactly what is the source of the discontent is not made clear. In THE MORE DECEIVED:

	The complacency of the English
is really too general a statement to have much bite to it and in CROSSING THE TAMAR
	a land where men make a mess of things
is equally vague.

SKIN AND HIDE MERCHANTS is a jibe at 'the never people' although it is not clear who these people are and quite what they have done to upset the writer, other than some innate lack of sensitivity or imagination. But there is the strong implication of guilt, even though we have not been told what the crime has been.

The poems that work best for me are the ones where there is no case to be made and no cause to present. The images of the natural world are presented with directness and appreciation, as in PENINSULAR:

	It is a bright, barley-sugar day
And in THYME TRAVEL:
	Meccano vegetation of
	cow-parsley
	skeletons the satellite dishes
One or two grammatical and spelling errors mars the presentation for me, but the cover picture of bridge traffic gives a sense of journey and boundaries and the optimism that travel brings.

reviewer: Morelle Smith.
GEOFF STEVENS: THE BARDS #2

Of course, one is pleased to read Geoff Stevens' poetry. I'm sure it's laudable to promote a poet's work in leaflet form. It is, though, a credit to Mr Stevens' nine poems that they survive and very well indeed this rather basic publication. I doubt if anyone not particularly interested in poetry would be enticed to open up its folds and read despite the poet's clever ink drawingon the front face. Editors need to convert as well as confirm.

Mr Stevens has his own clear voice; there is no mistaking his intentions. I liked, very much, THE L-SHAPED ROOM. It brings back my student days in which anything larger would have been a liability:

	The L-shaped room
	a part to lie down in
	a part to stand up in
These pieces have a bluntness that nevertheless manages to sharpen the reader's sensibilities; each has a life after the last line is read.

Here are the third and fourth stanzas of a strikingly atmospheric poem UNDER SAFETY OF DARKNESS:

	While nearby 
	the sodium estate lamps
	next to the mercury vaporised highway
	dingo the urban fox
	as he empties the dustbins of food-waste
	and illuminate burglars as they empty houses
	Only the car headlights of lovers
	join the two places in light
A nicely presented (full) collection from Mr Stevens will be worth waiting for.

reviewer: Michael Bangerter.
GEOFF STEVENS: THE PHRENOLOGY OF ANAGLYPTA

100-odd poems from the prolific Geoff Stevens. How does he manage to write so many? It is well-nigh impossible to open any issue of any magazine without finding one of Geoff's poems in it....but then one always lives in hope (only joking). A fair number of poems deal with places visited, others with love, women and desires and memories, all rather artificially divided into sections such as PLACES IN THE MIND or PLACES I'VE BEEN WITH YOU. In SCUPPERED there is praise of simple and mundane pleasures:

	The Aussie barman disappears and returns with our order.
	Bacon and brie dissolves with beer and wine,
	and outside, the gulls are drowning the sound of the waves.
	What more could we want.
Although at times describing faraway places, he often writes panegyrics to the sort of places you end up in during short breaks, as in LLANDRINDOD WELLS, where he writes of
	giant Sequoias of Wellingtonia Pine
	the taste of chalybeate
	the ferrous drink which springs in Rock Park
	near to the Pump Room
	and the Lovers' Leap
	and the sign which says the Automobile Palace
	once sold aeroplanes.
	Who'd want to fly away from here?
Some of the poems read like diary-entries, fascinating to their originator but for others rather like passed-around photographs of others' holidays:
	The air up here is stretched to disbelief,
	our lungs gasping at its purity,
	so we pause for cool orange juices
	and cold apple strudels, at a lone house
	that provides them on a small scale,
	for a few schillings, not to get rich quick.
These are generally accessible, unambitious pieces with a fine, at times fastidious eye for detail, as in JUST TO GET SWEET POTATOES:
	It was a street corner slouching,
	dog-howling, sort of neighbourhood,
	up to no good behind its shop front
	advertisements for 7-Up and
	hot chilli sauce
Here is a lovely image in THE PHRENOLOGY OF ANAGLYPTA:
	I am living in the wallpaper;
	it is as full of sqiggles as an Arab mosque.
There are occasional pieces which speak a greater personal urgency and truth, such as HOSPITAL TRUSTS:
	heart surgery
	and the daisy
	stitch
	rustles the chains in my slumbering head

	ghosts, come to haunt me,
	of the dead,
	those that by-passed life
	under the knife
Some good pieces here, rather hard to pin-point at times bunched-up amidst such a mass of poems.

reviewer: Alan Hardy.