NEW HOPE INTERNATIONAL REVIEW

An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
CHRISTOPHER JAMES: THE INVENTION OF BUTTERFLY
Ragged Raven Press
1 Lodge Farm
Snitterfield
Stratford-upon-Avon
CV37 0LR
UK
ISBN 0 9542397 9 2
7

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CHRISTOPHER JAMES: THE INVENTION OF BUTTERFLY

In recent years there can be few young poets who have burst, fully formed, upon the poetry scene as Christopher James does with his first collection, THE INVENTION OF BUTTERFLY. The word invention, in the title of his book, stands like a beacon to his success James has got imagination in spades and this, together with his off-beat humour and assured skill as a story teller, allows him to compose cleverly formed and unique poems. James is interested in the curious, he is drawn to unusual facts as in EVOLUTION ENCYCLOPAEDIA:

	Bald eagles can actually swim.
	They use an overhead movement of their wings 
	that is very much like the butterfly stroke.
Once an idea is chosen it is sieved through his powerful imagination until it emerges, cunningly and strikingly formed, as a witty and curious poem. It is unsurprising that he has had such great success in poetry competitions (a winner at Bridport and Ledbury among others) as bored competition judges are always open to the unusual and different. So many of James's poems are rooted in the most unexpected subject matter yet chime in the most astonishing ways

Reading THE INVENTION OF BUTTERFLY at one sitting is a bit like watching a compilation of the best bits of Monty Python's Flying Circus. If anything, it is even more bizarre as the book leaps from a vision of [Samuel] PEPYS AT SEA via CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE IN REVERSE to an unusual take on Pinocchio THE LAST PRANK OF THE MARIONETTE.

I particularly liked THE ONLY PENNY FARTHING IN ICELAND in which a careless Victorian cyclist and his machine tumble from a Liverpool dockside into the freezing hold of a trawler where they are:

	embedded in a hoard of herring and crushed ice
The frozen cyclist and his machine are unloaded in Iceland:
 
	Reunited with his bicycle on the dockside
	the man resembled a newly commissioned statue,
	still slightly bent at the knee and stiff as cardboard,
	an official gift perhaps, from a neighbouring state
Remarkable as these many fanciful poems are, perhaps James has been too clever for his own good by packing them so tightly into this first collection. Too much rich food can leave one with a longing for simpler fare. It is the same with THE INVENTION OF BUTTERFLY, I wish he had leavened the mix with more simple, direct poems like THE NOTE. In this poem he describes a walk on a cold London morning and an encounter with a busker, but still manages to find the extraordinary in the mundane:
 
	We watch him set up his  music
	in the subway, lightly spinning
	that beautiful piece of blonde wood
	on its silver stem until he nodded, 
	swallowed the last of his milky coffee, 
	drew back his bow and pronounced a note
	like the first word of the morning.
For similar reasons I enjoyed AT THE BELISHA BEACONS and the wonderful THE FIRST WEEK where, on the birth of a first child,
	the flowers keep coming
until
	the banjo was buried  in the corner
It concludes:
	Everyday we tended two nurseries
	one up, one down, until after a week
	we gave up, and as the flowers waned
	our baby blossomed, each first-thing smile
	as new as the first buds of spring.
Occasionally James shows a tendency towards chopped-up prose as in FIRE AT THE ICE HOUSE:
	it was started they said, on the Regent's Canal
	On a barge laden with bottled Guinness,
	By a child tied to the roof to stop her falling in
even in his less technically adept offerings James's audacious imagination and intriguing ideas carry him through.

Despite these small reservations, I would recommend THE INVENTION OF BUTTERFLY as a compelling and fascinating book this accomplished and inventive young poet will certainly be someone to watch.

reviewer: Patrick B Osada.