Caught in the Frame

Poor Tom's Revenge reviewed (along with three other collections) by Rob Withers in Envoi 134
44 Rudyard Road, Biddulph Moor, Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7JN

Brian Fewster: Poor Tom's Revenge, Poor Tom's Press, 3.00

...The temptation to structure a poem by relating an action sequence using film concepts is understandable, but unless it adds insights...then a trite and banal treatment is bound to result, however horrific the events described. Brian Fewster uses the idea of stopped frames in a description of a boy killing a car driver by heaving a concrete block over a road bridge:

Cut to side view of traffic under the bridge
through the projected point of intersection
towards which the missile now jumps frame by frame...
------------------------------------------------------------------------- Stop-Frame Sequence

Nothing in the poem makes any kind of point about the violent act. Latent aggression pervades the repellent, amoral, Hard Man poem and, of course, that Brechtian shark swims again. Protest, ironic critiques of capital, underlying aggression and suppressed violent acts appear without evaluation in Poor Tom's Revenge.

Production values have no place in Brian Fewster's project. Since it would make little sense to package such poems attractively, I suspect that Fewster, who works in IT, has devised the unappealing cover design (a collage of newspaper scraps) and will have chosen the poor quality, stapled pamphlet cover. That should have been enough to ensure that only his kind of reader would peer inside Poor Tom's Revenge but for good measure, on the deliberately tatty cover, he stuck his off-putting and archaic title in a crude frame.

Emma Lee's response: ("Knocking the book for its cover")

Brian Fewster's response ("It may be significant that the only two poems mentioned by name happen to be on facing pages and that the title of one of them would have stood out in the Table of Contents as fitting Withers' overall theme.")

Huw Watkins' response ("One should expect the critic to be imaginative, fair, and back up any criticism (harsh or otherwise) with full argument and justifications if the reader is to have any respect for his opinions.")

Rob Withers defends his review ("I don't have time to devote to pointless attacking of work in which I see no merit.")

An open letter to Rob Withers ("The key to this is your theory that reviews don't have to be about the work under review... For a reviewer on a large-circulation poetry magazine to adopt such a cavalier attitude to his responsibility is a serious matter.")

Return to Brian Fewster's poetry site