An independent small press poetry review

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Poetry Monthly
39 Cavendish Rd,
Long Eaton,
NG10 4HY,
ISBN 1 905126 05 0

Littoral Press
38 Barringtons
10 Sutton Road
Southend on Sea
ISBN 0 9541844 7 5

Ninth Arrondissement Press
118 Nayland Road
ISBN 978 0 9553521 1 9
5; 8; $8

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This slim booklet is the winner of the 2004 Open Poetry Monthly Booklet Competition. Its author, Derek Adams, has had his work published in a number of small press magazines.

POSTCARDS TO OLYMPUS accompanies Orpheus of Greek mythology to the Greek islands, returns to roller blade with him in New York's Central Park and in the final poem ORPHEUS IN L.A. cruises Hollywood and Vine with him. Many of the poems bear in their titles the name of Greek heroes, such as Tethys, Ganymedes and Hector.

The booklet begins with the poem ORPHEUS, in which the hero tells us that,

	The music does it every time 
In HELEN WASHES UP, he states how he
	must have been mad with passion.
This passion is carried through the following poems as he encounters Midas, the Minotaur, Atlas, The Gorgon, and more. In ORPHEUS IN NEW YORK the reader is taken to Central Park:
	Busking in Central Park.
	a crowd gathers, even

 	a Rollerblader stops
	removes her Walkman to listen,

 	and above the treetops;
	sky scrapers lean forward.
Wryness and a touch of satire are never far away, as in ICARUS IN THE 21st CENTURY , where he
	once dreamt of touching the stars
but is now
	Falling through the sky
There are little vignettes of the alien city that is everywhere, as in THE GORGON:
	In the corner,
	this tiny Gorgon,
	the eight legs snaking.
where the awful nightmare figure of the Gorgon becomes a tiny spider.

The poem that perhaps best encapsulates the strengths of Adams is based on the Classical myth of Oedipus, where the viewpoint twists, the speaker strains after recognition, wonders

	did you expect me to be any different?
and ends with a lyrical surge which is part of the intricate orchestration of the poem
	Did I ever really know you?
	Perhaps fleetingly at the end
	our separate paths met.
	I could hardly recognise you lying there;
	the years had taken their toll:
	still in your eyes
	an unanswered riddle.
Finally, the hero cruises L.A. where,
	the blurring headlights and neon
	absorb your likeness back into the underworld.
Adams is a mature poet secure in his strengths and interests. The poems include outsiders of various sorts "another Helen", the "bull-headed" Minotaur, Icarus "passion melting like wax", Dionysus who's spirit
	brought warmth
	to my lips
	in the cold
	of the long night.
In Adams' work boundaries blur, cross, re-define and false oppositions such as those of mind/body, mind/nature, love and its alleged opposites, the vulnerable self and the closeness of relationships are pointed up. Yet in doing so he adopts no simple-minded view of what constitutes boundaries or their recognition.

This is a work of power, originality and individuality. The poems are short one to a page. Poetical devices such as rhyme are eschewed, but the poems retain rhythm, and imagery. The effect is a series of poems relating a story of one man's journey to find happiness using the mythological story of Orpheus to underpin it and retell it in a modern way. The central concern of the poems being the notion that nothing really changes.

reviewer: Patricia Prime.

Adams' 52 poems of his first full collection are certainly a miscellany in subject matter; all poems should gel for the reader; some have an alluring twist of meaning at the end; some dissolve to present another perspective at the end; others emphasize by repetition. The genre varies, though probably one can say that there is no direction of thought to wide issues of humanity. The poet reacts to situations with complete absence of ego or self-importance. Work I liked included SKRYING which commences

	If I stare long enough into the polished black obsidian mirror
	they will come to me
	the angels or demons.
and ends
	If I look too long into your eyes,
	they will come to me
	the angels or demons.
A poem, THE FLOWER-GARDEN, apparently written in reminiscence of boyhood, is very sensitive and accomplished. He accompanies his mother to tend a grave. We are not told who Michael is, but in the last verse the boy puzzles, and although his viewing of lettering on stone, even at a young age connotes a book, which seems a little contrived, the verse stands well. As the boy reflects on the routine of refilling the vase and providing new flowers we have:
	In the ordinariness of this routine,
	two things puzzle me:
	why is this book
	(whose black letters pose
	mysteriously on the open page)
	made of stone
	and why does Michael
	want to sleep here?
ONCE UPON A WITCHING TIME is not up to standard in the last two verses, and would have been better omitted.

On the whole a collection of undemanding and interesting reading, maybe somewhat overpriced.

reviewer: Eric Ratcliffe.

23 poems exploring the life and works of the American surrealist artist, Man Ray. The opening poem, MAN RAY, deals with Man Ray's creation or putting together of his cultural identity, as well as his own name, and the multifarious facets and interplay of his various art-forms:

	His own name an assemblage, even.
	Man; reinvented.
	Ray; dazzling, vibrant.

	And the metronome swings
	Dada Dada
	Filmmaker  Poet
	Dada Dada

	Eye a lens,
	focusing sharply on an object 
	showing us something other.
This theme is carried on into BORN AGAIN 1905, the year he started to use the name Man Ray:
	I rise slowly, sit in front of the mirror,
	take a piece of paper, a pencil,
	start to re-draw myself.
	Man Ray. Man Ray. Man Ray.
Derek Adams is himself obsessed with this theme of redrawing or reinventing one's persona or cultural image, in the way that Modernist or Surrealist art redefines objects, traditions or perspectives, like a distorting mirror that can reflect different shapes and forms.

Luckily we are provided with a biographical and culturally-significant list of dates, with brief explanations, at the end of the sequence of poems. For example, we are told that in 1913 Man Ray visited the Armoury Show in New Jersey and discovered European avant-garde; consequently Derek Adams' piece, THE ARMOURY SHOW 1913, becomes self-explanatory:

	  I have seen it,
	    I have seen it, here.
	            The future.
	       Here in this hall,
	          brazen as anything
	      it walks down the stairs
	   toward me, naked.
In 1920/1921 Man Ray embraces Dadaism, as we see in IMPOSSIBILITE DANCER/DANGER 1920:
	Throw away the old brushes,
	the old ideas, the old order.
	Dada. Dada. Dada.
He moves to Paris, his cultural home, in 1921, which leads to the poem entitled PARIS 1921:
	Paris chases her tail like a street mutt,
	bites, barks, jumps
	round the place de la Concorde,
	shits 22 carat faeces on the sidewalk.
Poems deal with important relationships in Man Ray's life, such as with Kiki de Montparnasse in KIKI 1921, and Lee Miller and Juliet Browner in later poems, and important developments in his art and practice of art-forms, such as RAYOGRAPH 1922, RETOUR A LA RAISON 1923 dealing with dadaist films, and PORTRAIT IMAGINAIRE DE SADE 1938.

The art-forms and artistic preoccupations of the 1920s hold Derek Adams in a trance, and through his skilful interweaving of Man Ray's life and works with poems themselves constructed in terms of shifting focus, interchangeability of perspective and ever-evolving contrasts we are led into his fascination with this epoch. For example, the eroticism of the 1920s, especially in terms of the sexually outrageous, but essentially sexist images of women, is celebrated in KIKI DE MONTPARNASSE:

	Blanc et Noir
	mask and face
	face and mask
	Black and white

	What is artificial.
	What is art.

	Painted lips, cheeks
	hand drawn eyebrows,
	mascara lashes.
	These are not glass tears.
Man Ray's later, rather uneventful years (the highlight being when he paints and photographs Ava Gardner) are naturally skimmed through in a poem or two. Obviously Derek Adams' poems would be rather unintelligible but for the biographical addendum at the end and, paradoxically, with that addendum become a little tautological and even superfluous, but, in embellishing and embossing the bare facts, they probably make Man Ray and his works come alive in a way that an equally panegyrical but dry and straightforward biography would not.

reviewer: Alan Hardy.