‘Very Rare Poems Upon The Earth’

Another book by Tim Allen. He keeps sending me them. Published this year (2023) by Aquifer Books. 128 “improvised” pages, “spells” according to the blurb, each of two paragraphs of 8 long lines, often with one or more large spaces in them (of about 5 to 12 letters). Though these spaces can often – not always – function as dividers (there is no punctuation) they don’t immediately suggest pauses, which means reading the poems inattentively is quite natural. But I get the general sense that Allen is trying to incite the reader’s curiosity into paying attention, and though I am lost how any two paragraphs fit together, these poems are only really fragmentary at that bored surface reading, when an occasional startling image (“a bee at sea”) and spacing (“a concept / squeezed into the imagination”) is all that breaks up the relative tedium of the flow of letters (there are a number of direct references to music, at least some of which are listed in the back, Shirley Bassey, Frank Zappa, etc., but I don’t think of these as especially musical as talk, which as such is perhaps invective and sinister).

My favourite poem (most meaningful?) is ‘Childhood’ (the titles are randomly selected from a list, but, as Allen claims in the notes, “once a connection is made between a title and poem it cannot be forgotten”), which seems more “weighed down” (the last poem seems to suggest the poet has to be) by his thinking, “a millisecond in which you forget the pain”. Figures – seemingly arranged chaotically – keep popping and flashing and reappearing, and they are to be enjoyed, “unbearable pain handwritten like a waltz”. e.g.: the “look in the eyes / of Devonport men electric knives open” (compares I think fresh meat to eyes – carving to blinking, both instinctive); “ouija skiffle / Orpheus endless supply of fuck offs… press gangs rats in red” (publishers will eat anything).

Aside from the above, which works to create a contemplative aesthetic tone, I struggle with their hermetic qualities and to construct them as meaningful wholes, as ordering content (“thought processes”). I don’t know if that is deliberate or if my reading suffices.