eds. Rachael Allen, Sam Buchan-Watts,
Sean Roy Parker, Andrew Parkes
clinic/Egg Box, £7.99, 120 pages
T.S. Eliot’s oft-quoted observation rings true for Eileen Pun’s poem, ‘Studio Apartment: Sunday’, which opens the Clinic III anthology: ‘Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.’ When Pun ends the first stanza, she so closely and deftly matches the cadence, the tone of the words (considered resignation), the line breaks and the rhythm of the words to their meaning that the reader, still preoccupied with the quiet musicality of the words, can get a strong sense of what is being communicated:
———————He senses nothing of merit can ever
happen in here. Neither a succession of great decisions,
nor great love.
Pun has an eye for unlikely poetic opportunity (this poem is essentially about boredom), but also a keen ear.
And yet this is only the opening poem of a thoroughly absorbing anthology: there isn’t room, in this review alone, to do justice to all the good poetry and art that make it up. But sticking with Pun for a moment, her second poem in the magazine, ‘Title’, is an accomplished flâneur’s drive through New York with her pregnant sister that takes the styles and concerns of both the British modernists (Mirrlees’ Paris in particular comes to my mind) and the New York school of poets (O’Hara especially) in its stride.
Clinic III, edited by Rachael Allen, Sam Buchan-Watts, Sean Roy Parker and Andrew Parkes, three of whom appear in the anthology, is the third in a series of anthologies co-published with Nathan Hamilton’s Egg Box publishing house. The collection as a whole encompasses a satisfying variety of writing styles, but has a lively inclination towards Modernism – thankfully, a Modernism which is being constantly updated, not just imitated. A modern Modernism, if you like.
It is adorned with visual creativity – and I use the word ‘adorned’ deliberately because the artwork doesn’t encroach on the reading experience – rather, it stands separate from but also adds to it. I am no art critic but the fact that most of the artworks are collages makes no bones about the place of bold reinterpretation in the anthology’s agenda: poets, traditions and styles all mined, rethought and re-presented. This anthology – more so than most – is itself a collage.
Nia Davies’s poem ‘Bridesmaid to the Bride’ is another gem. Davies has a wonderfully quick mind, and the thoughts behind each of her lines move so rapidly – sometimes too rapidly – that I was left a little out of breath. It’s a great feeling.
I am your maid of honour,
your depleting battery, dear friend.
Davies takes two disparate images and hinges them together, which is quite an ordinary thing in itself; but in so doing she handles with great care what is potentially an unwieldy non sequitur, getting a lot of information out of what might have been just a confusing couple of lines. The suggestion that the speaker’s feelings of friendship (or her ability to demonstrate those feelings in such a situation as this wedding), is a finite resource, is very poignant – more so because the friend in question is a ‘dear’ one, more so again because the suggestion is made as a kind of announcement to the friend who herself is presumably too busy getting married to respond. Or (this is the tacit suggestion) too busy to make for herself the speaker’s observations about the wedding itself: (‘Now you’re the hunted tribute,/ a pegged-up chattel…’) If she were paying closer attention, the poem implies, she would see this.
Alice Malin’s ‘Greengages’ is one of her best poems. Perhaps, stripped down to the bare bones, the central conceit is not revolutionary: the speaker compares a younger self, ‘this girl, still inside me’ with ‘the crenelated stone at the heart of the fruit’. But, aside from the deft redistribution of sounds within the poem and the closely -matched redistribution of ideas, Malin’s engagement with this technique is very thoughtful and funny, with a light-handed touch. She does not take the comparison further than it can fruitfully go, and there is a nod to the reader in this:
What are you thinking of as you bite into yours?
Old woman, your green girl has kicked up her heels and run.
You are not thinking about anything except the greengage,
an acolyte to the act of reading.
If it is an obvious comparison with which Malin engages, she also engages with the obviousness of it, and writes with a precise, bathetic humour.
In this light, Malin’s poem (certainly not the last of the very good pieces in this anthology – only the last I have space to mention) is a microcosm of the issue as a whole: there’s humour, maturity and honest, reflective, real invention in this anthology, and I strongly recommend it.
The full list of contributors to clinic iii is: Rachael Allen, Ellie Andrews, Daniel Barrow, Emily Berry, Pablo Boffelli, Sam Buchan-Watts, Harry Burke, Sophie Collins, Nia Davies, Sam Donsky, Charlotte Geater, Alex Gibbs, Lawrence Giffin, Harry Giles, Pablo Jones-Soler, Henry King, Megan Levad, Rachel Maclean, Alice Malin, Helen Mort, David Nash, Sean Roy Parker, Kyle Platts, Eileen Pun, Tom Rees, Jonny Reid, Sam Riviere, Thomas Slater, Annie Strachan, Olly Todd, Emily Toder, Jon Vaughn, Rory Waterman, Katie Wilkinson.