Sunday, September 28, 2008

Alan Corkish's Bum Rap by David McLean (Chapbook Review)

Bum-Rap by Alan Corkish
Chapbook Review by David McLean

This is the first chapbook produced by Liverpool poet Alan Corkish. He says that these are poems for him, poems designed to satisfy him, his own favorites. Luckily for him, I think his tastes may well match the taste of other readers than me.

Alan is very varied in the sort of subjects with which he deals here. The book contains some exquisite nature poems and very well-done love poems, though love poems in general tend to be tacky, not so Alan's. And there are, perhaps most notably, a few politically very committed pieces, including a few where religion gets what it deserves, very much according to my personal predilections, of course.

I was actually, being very cultured, totally unaware of the existence of this Felix Dennis person whom Alan takes delight in savaging. I must say that I'm sorry that curiosity made me read a couple of this person's poems on the Internet.

My favorite would have to be “the sea of absolute vanity” where Corkish leads through a Biblically presented list of our vanities to a conclusion that life is totally meaningless, a conclusion belied by a grinning fish in the artwork under. And yet the nature poems give life a worth, the last poem implying a Sisyphean acceptance of the fundamental emptiness and a will to persist at least a few tomorrows more. Interestingly, this and several poems in the collection reveal an attentive awareness of Shakespeare.

To live with the meaninglessness we need to pay attention to details and delight in them. This Corkish does in poems such as “Ainsdale forest” and others here -

“This stillness is as empty
as the space between atoms
as vacant as worn pews
in a deserted church”

- And even to delight in the play of human relations, which he does with humor that varies from bittersweet to ribald to acerbic, depending on the deserts of the relationship.

The most moving poems here are about death, the pointlessness and unfairness of death as in

“the child's passing
was as pointless
as that of the dull grey
bone gaunt pigeon
that lies now on the
litter strewn rail-track
on exactly the same spot
where the child died”

The collection really includes a whole array of levels and topics, the profoundest regret and sorrowful nostalgia, as in “father,” to the tenderest emotion, as in “Good Friday 2006.” Corkish holds back excesses of sentimentality pretty well and stops at the effective, and he avoids being holier than thou when he is being politically correct. I mean, what's wrong with PC really, when it's not holier than thou?

All in all, this book, which is on sale at erbacce at their website, is excellent. Buy the book, it's really worth the effort. And really, don't annoy the fucker – you wouldn't want a poem like “Felix Dennis UK Poetry Tour” to be about you.

Author bio:

David McLean is Welsh but has lived in Sweden since 1987. He has a BA in History from Balliol (1982) and an MA in philosophy from Stockholm (1999). He has one chapbook as a free download at Why Vandalism. Another, in print, can be ordered at Erbacce Press. A full length poetry collection Cadaver's dance is available at Whistling Shade Press and can be ordered at alibris or amazon. Another book of 128 pages is out with Erbacce-press, "pushing lemmings." More books are in the pipeline and there is even a self-published book of poems at Lulu called "eating your night" Lulu. Details of around 600 poems in or forthcoming in over 260 zines online or print over the last eighteen months are at Mourning Abortion.

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