Thursday, October 18, 2012

Review of Rawshock in ABR  

Peter Kenneally, September 2012

As a result of the public works of Puncher & Wattmann, it has been established yet again that a book of poetry can and should combine meaning and design in a shock of pleasure. Toby Fitch’s first full-length collection, especially the central title poem, does this in spades. Orpheus returns to Hades to rescue Eurydice. In ten poems, each mirroring the original Rorschach ink blot on the page facing it, they spark and spar in a very modern way that has the dankness of Hades clinging to it.

There are pitfalls at almost every step in this kind of undertaking, and Fitch avoids all of them. He defibrillates the hackneyed theme, and creates sculptured poems that play with shape, stutteringly, and yet are living things, not merely rearrangements. Close the book, and watch as the poem folds into its ink blot, producing an almost physical sensation of collapse and coition.

Either side of this perfectly realised notion the book feels inevitably peripheral, especially as Fitch is so good at conjuring the monsters and strange atmospheres, as well as the quiet pleasures, of the inner-city edge. He lets every poem have the shape it needs, and, more to the point, knows when to let things be.

The book as a whole, especially in the latter part, refers to and appropriates the full pantheon of French poetry. Fitch works hard to create a kind of knowing, absinthe-coloured haze, but the tone and language of his glimpsed and off-kilter world often feels more Roger McGough than Apollinaire. In ‘Library Animals’, as two lexically enhanced lovers delve among the stacks, he is put on the spot — ‘“Put some more more English on it” / she whispers, with / my finger on her forepart’ — and he can’t help but oblige.