An independent small press poetry review

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Ligden Publishers
34 Lineacre,
Grange Park,
SN5 6DA,

Ligden Publishers

Ligden Publishers

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This page last updated: 10th December 2007.

As a poetry lover, I really like listening to recordings of poems and, over the last few decades, there have been some splendid ones. Hearing how a poet voices words can be both a real pleasure, and add to one's sense of a writer's particular treatment of sound. Among poets that I've enjoyed hearing read their own work on tape have been Seamus Heaney, Paul Durcan, Macdara Woods, and, of course, the great Patrick Kavanagh. Poets who set their poems to music are often scarcer and, it seems to me, attempting a difficult balancing act of matching sound with sound. One such writer is Dave Pike, whose poems here are often accompanied by the sound of an acoustic guitar.

The titles of the poems on the disc are intriguing, from LOCK'S LANE and the hauntingly simple TOW PATH to THE CROWD BECAME THIN and THROWER OF STONES. I liked the tone of the poems very much, and also felt that the CD benefited from the softness of Pikes voice, which seemed, at times, oddly familiar. ATHELSTAN had a good sound to it, as did TOW PATH which was an evocation of place as haunted, haunting, and full of the sound of past industry. I particularly liked the evocation of a lonely stretch of disused towpath being ghosted by the sound of the barges that used to travel down its length. There was also humour, and this served the disc well, avoiding a monotony of sound. I thought that the last track, HEAVY SHOPPING was reminiscent of the type of supermarket trip that most people would happily avoid. It was very droll, and the introduction to it was reminiscent of the sound of someone heavy barging through a queue.

Pikes landscape is, it seems to me, never quite what one expects, as even Norman, an alabaster gnome standing sentinel in a suburban garden, wields a particularly sharp axe. If I was the author, and considered altering anything on this good CD, it would be the introductions in to poems and acoustic pieces, as I felt that these were often unnecessary. Having said this, this remains a very minor quibble, and should not detract from what is a very enjoyable listening experience that also represents great value for money.

THE JOURNEY which is a poem about reading Heaney on a bus journey, sums up Pike's skill as both a poet and a recording artist, and is indicative of the quality of the CD as a whole. THE JOURNEY is about sound and the visions that this conjures up, and is also about listening, hearing, and the imagination. I liked the vision of TOWPATH as a recording, and felt that it was a good addition to any collection of recordings of poets reading their own work.

reviewer: Deborah Tyler-Bennett.

When I saw the description

all vocals and guitar by David Pike
I thought it was a singer/songwriter album. I was quite surprised to discover it was poetry accompanied by electric guitar. To be honest, I would have preferred the poetry without the guitar, which to my ears is simply aimless doodling and strumming. This is compounded by the fact that the six instrumental tracks seem to be only this aimless doodling and strumming extended. Music can accompany poetry very effectively, but I felt that in this case it would be better without it.

The poetry itself is quite good gently whimsical and wistful. SCHISM describes life in a gymnasium in which, while the members sweat and strain, the trainer sits in the smallest room and smokes. In MEDIUM SIZED BAR-STEWARDS, in which he imagines fat people to have been inflated by a foot pump,

	thin folk are fat people with dodgy valves
ELSEWHERE has a nimby complaining of a landfill site the poet wonders where the nimby's own waste products are going to be stored. STILL SMILING takes a look at the superhero in ridiculous garb who always gets the girl and concludes that
	superheros need villains to exist
I like his poet's credo in BIG HOUSE (LYDIARD MANSION);
it's good to be a storyteller, even when the story's weak and suffers from embellishments
Recording levels are variable, some tracks are very difficult to follow because of the faintness of delivery a problem that never seems to affect the guitar playing, however!

reviewer: John Francis Haines.

Pike has produced a CD of 17 musical tracks, most of which consist of a guitar backing to spoken lyrics. These are interesting and compelling almost like listening to a story-teller. The lyrics are based on the realities of life and Pike endows them with an almost mystical feeling. Pike has a gravely, slow voice that touches a nerve. He reminds this reviewer of Leonard Cohen with whom his voice has a striking similarity. The backing guitar music is rhythmical and non-obtrusive providing a suitable backing to the words.

A few of the tracks are instrumentals, for example, SLOW TRAIN, SPAGHETTI CHEESE and WEIRD BLUES. Unfortunately these are the least successful of the offerings as they sound self indulgent and unstructured. The whole was let down by the quality of the CD which tended to make the music sound slightly foggy. Nevertheless, it makes interesting listening.

reviewer: Polly Bird.