A Graph Review, 55 with highpoints 68
Tell it Like it Might Be
By Michael Bartholomew-Biggs
Published 2008. By Smoke Stack Books. £7.95 ppr. 9780955402845
47 poems. Plus very brief notes on 6 poems
Truth, realism, provocation, neat imaging and surrealism run throughout Tell it like it Might Be. Outline stories filled with keen observation of the possibilities of self. Many written as if the author in situation, others rigorously imagined with a poetical view and sometimes deviously written. Subjects covered vary from religion to war, sickness, variations on love and deception. Questions regarding faith, in self as much as religion. Strong imagery slipping between the story line and the insistence of nature and bouts of surrealism siding with bare description. Not in every poem, not by repetition but often writ quite large between the lines is the question “Why are we as we are?”
I do think a few, like ‘Identity Crisis‘ and ‘Curtain Call‘ fit into well-covered themes that have been dipped into so many times by so many poets. But why not, a good story, well told is always worth reading in any tongue. Anyway, over time and poets the stories never really change, only some words and maybe a few facts plus the influence of layers of voices from the past.
‘Fool’s-errand Boys‘ and ‘Troubadours‘, the last entry and ‘Loss Adjusters’ are the three poems that stand out as having most obvious rhyme schemes. These and the free verse narratives vary in subject and tenor with language that is clear and precise though imagery might cloud the immediate meaning and the sub-plot on initial readings. Overall I am left with an impression of good poetry, technically well constructed, all of personal import on private or wider world subjects. Perhaps lacking in gentler, softer language but this is well -countered by the clarity and at times simplicity of what is said.
An Essex man, now living in London, Michael Bartholomew-Biggs is a mathematician ( part-retired) and poet (poetry editor for Poetry p f). Website link for Poetry p f . His predilection for maths no doubt enables his spirit of enquiry and directness of language, which in turn may (often) be enveloping other meanings and possibilities. Poems written with heart and mind.
Aviary in Dulwich Park; a brief narrative on parental worry and helplessness.
Dream Catching; an unusual and elegant poem that offers pictures and poses questions.
Tell it Like it Might Have Been; a descriptive poem, memory, nostalgia but still a lingering doubt.
1st verse from: Close Enough for Jazz. This is an example of one stanza, simple structure, yet highly descriptive when your mind is in gear:
the music starts
with just a walking bass
and rhythm struts like melody
till melody swings in;
Above is sample of the softer aspects of this collection. Other poems, often on events, show points of view or an attitude that are harder, especially when the events are harder, harsher. And here the still questioning why? but with words that do not say but imply an uncomprehending, anger-tinged question.
All are thought provoking poems, clearly written and many layered. A good counter blast in style to some of the older poets I have recently been reading. A step behind Jo Shapcott but the poems of Michael Bartholomew-Biggs are still very acutely written.