Monday, October 14, 2013

Petrarch - Tim Atkins

Today's book of poetry:  Petrarch.  Tim Atkins.  Book Thug:  New British Poets Series No. 2.  Toronto, Ontario.  2013

Tim Atkins' Petrarch  from Book Thug's New British Poets Series is edited by Stephen Collis and Amy De'Ath.  If the quality of this read  is any indication of what is to follow we are all in for a big treat.  This chapbook pops and spits and crackles in your hands while you are trying to read it.  If this is what they are doing in Britain then I want to see more of it.

 to J.S.with L.

In England     or     Hobbiton        & in denial of my age
     now that summer has been sold off
Without dividend from whatever privatized public service
     deigns to lease my leg to the national grid & then charge
     for it

                      After 300 years of being Japanese
                In the process of giving up wishing for the rewards
     of a poetry written towards a ship made of bricks
     Or of 'literal' fulfilment                having been closer than
      most hairdressers to both
In a taxi   back from a fortnight's canapes & quality time
     with chinchillas   at a conference on Karl Marx
                                 Let me state              although it is late –
To be a poet is to hitch-hike 5000 miles in a kayak   in order
     to see
A jar in Tennessee          Rioting     Inna me khaki suit-an-t'ing
In Godalming
                                                           Selling out is the new
     keeping it real            Unhappy for 3/4 of a haircut
                                      We always fall into the
         Utopian     Camp      Poets
                                If you want to fix the world go to Wall St.


Tim Atkins is quite unlike anyone else I've encountered, the mix of styles, his range, his humour –
these poems, ostensibly a translation of Petrarch, simply soar like somewhat unorganized fireworks.  Each explosion more illuminating than the last.


Her white breasts pressed against a green tree-trunk
The orange of oranges        as   only oranges can
One cat kissing another cat     on a card      in a card shop
     in Clapham
Different from a blue tongue in the mouth or the hand
Of a Chinese doctor  trembling just a little at the front     of
     the concept of reciprocity
Her yellow body       as white as white paper      really white
Two boxers standing silent in a ring     perhaps       hugging
     Jack & Art           What Spunk!
Light on wrought-iron in the dome of the mind of the
     Dadaist Restauranteur
Whoever wishes to love nobly     when she presses her green
     something against a white what –    friends –


Book Thug, the most adventurous small press in the country at the moment, is producing this new series, New British Poets, in runs of 100.  Tim Atkin's Petrarch would be better served as a Gideon Bible type promotion, you know, one in every hotel room, maybe a run of 100,000.  This isn't about religion, not remotely, but instead a new kick start to reason.  "O, brave new world that such people in't!"   This book in every hotel room would put things in a new perspective.


Sitting upright in front of a lie detector
& failing test after test
A male nurse called Pam says
Wake up Mr Atkins – it's time for your Phil Spector
There is the pot test and the one involving fire and domestic
In order to discover any new planet
In the prose poem entitled "The Shrimp Exaggerated"
I am that tulip
In London SW19
The camera records everything but     love
     & on the other hand
Again – love –
If you can get it from my kung-fu grip
Only then you can have it


Atkins isn't really concerned about our fractured history or kaleidoscope future, he's riffing fantastic, about the present in poem after poem.  I would be a liar if I said I got it all, some of it flies past me so fast I don't see it, but these poems resonate with me and call me back for more.  Atkins makes me laugh.


No lovely small noisy birds with dark shiny feathers that
     roam through empty pieces of clothing for a woman or
     girl that hangs from the waist
No well-oiled water creature with a shell upon a tranquil
     person who does sculpture
No place where old or injured horses are taken to be killed
     and their flesh sold in low comfortable chairs with
     supports for the arms through the part of a cheque ticket
     etc which can be detached and kept as a record
No swift and frisky tall thin people in charming women
     especially the women of a family or community
     considered together
No recent tiny piece of atomic matter of long-awaited thin
     sticks covered with a substance that burns slowly and
     produces a sweet smell
No small piece of material sewn into a garment of a small
     insect living on the bodies of people or animals in lofty
     ornate state of being nearly unconscious or not fully
     aware of what is happening
Nor there amid clear small young onions and red hats with
     a flat top and tassel but no brim of green
Sweet device or system for finding objects under water of
     the production of milk by women or female animals
     virtuous and lovely
Nor other part of the human leg between the knee & the
     hip can ever touch my number of things or mass of
     material lying in an untidy pile
She buried it so deep with her own instrument for detecting
Who was along for my extreme views in politics or religion
     a person employed at a beach or pool to rescue people
     and a girl who is playful or cunning and does not show
     the proper respect
So long and heavy is the pain of animals kept on a farm for
     use or profit
That I call for the books giving information to investigate
     and report on complaints made by citizens against public
     authorities I should never have seen


We can't all be the sharpest tack or quickest wit which is exactly why we need voices like Tim Atkins to lubricate the wheels of the roller coaster.  Reason isn't the reason for reading these exciting poems.  It's the ride, an amusement park ride for the noggin.


The boys are singing to drive away the noxious birds
Before women it is useful to practice on statues
& now I am here to tell you all that I have discovered
That living is one of the best things – there where I ripped it
that her eyes couldn't have been more beautiful – I just
     thought they were
Driving my utopian car over the dystopian roads
I go over and look at myself
& look surprised
Because living is one of the best things          I go over
I stand there listening to the sunshine burning the grass
My horn a crumpled dream
Earthling!  Comrades!  Adios!
Work out your salvation with diligence
As if all things were still possible


If I didn't know that he were dead I would have thought Kurt Vonnegut might have had a hand in melding some of these poems.  Tim Atkins Petrarch makes me anxiously excited to read more in Book Thug's New British Poet Series, and it certainly makes me want to read more of Atkins.  In his world, it all seems possible.

Tim Atkins talks about poetry in England.

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