Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Gillian Prew, short double review

standing still in motion
(Gillian Prew, 2009)

the idea of wings
(Gillian Prew, 2009)

reviewed by David McLean

These two books are both edited and produced by Prew herself, this as a matter of personal choice since she thought she could do the job more professionally than the available publishers in the small press. It is a tribute to her professionalism that this proves to be true.

Subject-wise, the poems in these books consider life, specifically her life, and in such a way that the content can be generalized. I have seen the subject matter described as existentialist, which a cursory glance assures us it isn't, taking existentialism as a movement allegedly started by Sartre, exhilarated and drunk on VE day, though some poems seem infused by the philosophy of existence, and philosophical questions concerning human existence.

The poetry is more one that articulates generally post-philosophical questions of meaning, and of the course and worth of reason, the location of a locus of identity and a quick overdraft of axiological credit on some secular account. Home and family, nature and buildings, all these subtle erections to split the sky

Generally the question is “why the fuck bother?” and the answer, reasonably enough, as she says, in a poem that cites Mr John Rotten, is that we are the mourners who mourn only ourselves (“the beggar's belief,” SSIM). It is generally the aesthetic that gives value, of course, and whether we crash and burn or not “its' the trying that counts” (“what am i doing right now?” SSIM). (Morally, I hope she means; aesthetically speaking; spewing up garbage is unforgivable.)

in the poem “the idea of wings” she writes

a crow knows what it needs to know

birds fly because they can

a human wing denies its own existence

her arms ached from flapping

This is perfect poetry. Sensu strictissimo there is no point in saying any of these four things to impart information. However, taken together, they give us a hint at an answer to the first of Kant's notorious three questions. She puts this question to herself as what she knows and whether a crow knows more than she does, boldly imputing knowledge to animals, though I am OK with that. (I feel that my poems deal with the other two, answering, respectively, “Whatever you feel like” and “Nothing, a complete cessation.”

Prew's poetry does not believe in ghosts. When she says we mourn ourselves, we are mourning our psyche, soul, the ghost in the human machine. For in writing a poem we are sometimes caught regretting the terrible decline of philosophical pneumatics, a fart blown away in the Darwinian wind.

This is her special forte. Poetry used to fill a pseudo-religious function, the roots of song in prayer, so secularizing verse is not always easy. Prew thinks clearly enough to cut through the crap spread by the soul-seeing self, this is the whimperings of (wo)man becoming nothing. Delighting in the damage.

it will all be ash even-
tually (ash is soft) that's why

I smile (that's why)

I'm not so concerned
with editing

I delight in the damaged. (I don't have

(the intimate structure of co-existence, TIOW)

This is a short review of two medium length books. You will be wanting both of them, unless there is something wrong with your sense of excellence. Order them from her at MySpace