Poor Tom's Revenge
reviewed by Frances Thompson in The Journal #7

ISSN 1466-5220

POOR TOM'S REVENGE, Brian Fewster.
Poor Tom's Press, 89a Winchester Ave, Leicester LE3 1AY
36 pp., A5, 2002 (wrong ISBN given)

..."liver-spotted sheets / whose names, like flies dismembered on the page, / still stir and almost coalesce to faces." I don't know when I've read a more striking evocation of the choking experience of going through old family papers - the past, our once potential selves, reaching out to touch us: "Those that we might have been hungrily watch us / crumble and waste the lives they might have had." Churchill's Black Dog of depression enters the space created by the might-have-been.

Fewster understands about rhyme and metre, and is a master of form. "Time Out", which opens the collection, has rightly been lauded by New Hope International as showing "almost supernatural clarity". What I like about the poem, as well as its clear shape and perfect rhyme, is the way in which its form echoes its content (or vice versa). In the second stanza, for example: "You seem to walk on water, I when through the midday heat I your spiralling reflection I ripples beneath your feet." Without disrupting the overall metre, the fourth line inverts its beat on "ripples", jolting the rhythm slightly, making those ripples ripple. Rhythm is manipulated in a parallel way in the next verse: "The boats upon their hawsers I feel a receding tide" but the effect here is to stretch and slow the line, making the long homophonic vowels of 'feel' and 'receding' pull away with the tide.

Fewster's sequence of seven sonnets on the Deadly Sins are cleverly done, with not a little irony, and the kind of humour where you find yourself smiling in recognition. In "The Maker", Fewster has produced a happy pastiche of Chaucer. As Tessa Ransford reminds us in an interview in Poetry Salzburg Review.., the word 'maker' is related to the word 'poet', both having the same Greek derivation. In Fewster's romp with Chaucer, the 'maker', or 'poet' wants to popularise poetry by putting "a fyr-werke up its ers". Great stuff.

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