Daytrain (Rob Holloway)

Paired with ‘Flesh Rays’ in a (print on demand) publication by if p then q, ‘Daytrain’ is a fairly short collection of prose poems of around 10-20 lines, which seems quite a conventional length in conetmporary poetry; the last poem is the shortest, at 7 lines. It is more difficult than ‘Flesh Rays’, which I could happily read without understanding: ‘Daytrain’ is horrible if you’re not here for meaning. Which is pretty instructive about how we construct poems: they work very well if and only if you can put the effort in. Perhaps that is because the language is neither fresh nor tired, how Holloway does not seem to care, at all, about novelty etc., more about fitting as many smart observations as possible into each poem.

E.g., the fifth poem, Iron Fills, begins “Film catching fire in summer, water bringing in the rain, the effort to assimilate is overtaking the precision of the capture these afternoons spent tightening air”. As with each sentence, I am forced into working out which words shouldn’t be read literally. Given the title, one might go with ‘bringing in’, rather than either noun in the phrase, in order to paraphrase it as: ‘filming fire, but wanting rain, the film, like the air, is unfocused’, making for something reaching toward a lush expansiveness (Holloway often seems to be writing on writing, in a broadly speaking Steinian way). Clearly, ‘air as film’ creates a semantic nexus, probably centred on ‘water bringing in the rain’ and a sense of uncomfortable humidity. I don’t have the skill necessary to add much to that, though ‘fills’ reminds me of musical talent, and, if I were to research what exactly was going on, I’d start with the steel industry; steel contains both iron and carbon. So the first sentence reads like an honest expression of powerlessness. The next sentence is about painting (and is not in need of figurative interpretation) and ‘light’, and rewards my analysis with a dynamism, before the third short sentence (the new sentence uses sentence length as torque): “In London some are extremely well”. There is a clear allusion to Ed Dorn’s turbine in the first poem, so it seems safe to claim that Holloway is drawing in many of his political issues into the poem.

My problem with this series is just how heavy it is and in need of work, cf something like The White Stones by Prynne.

These blocks of prose text are formally unapologetic, and a part of me wishes for line-breaks.