These reviews were scheduled to appear in Issue 8 of The Compass, where I was reviews editor. However, I was informed recently that the magazine is closing, and would not be publishing the reviews I had gathered for the forthcoming issue. They are presented here, with much delay, and with my original editorial as below.
‘When the world fails to make sense, when our metanarratives lose power, we turn to other, perhaps subversive, narratives to try to make meaning’, writes Jenna Clake in her review of collections by Rebecca Tamás, Jane Yeh, and Isabel Galleymore, considering the lure of the occult and the creaturely. Other reviews gathered in this issue are also attuned to a sense of crisis. Francesca Bratton considers Vidyan Ravinthiran’s The Million-Petalled Flower of Being Here against the ‘crisis-process’ of Brexit, probing the extent to which language can act as ‘a form of resistance’, while Degna Stone draws attention to ‘our current global instability’. What can poetry offer in times of unrest – or, as in The Following Scan Will Last Five Minutes, in times of ill health? Bratton’s review gives us one answer: ‘radical empathy’.
The act of translation might also be said to require empathy, and this issue is interested in slant translation, in translation that lays the process bare, and in untranslated moments within poems and collections. Sophie Collins’s translation of Lieke Marsman’s Dutch poems and essays includes a letter (unanswered) from the translator to the writer, while Dhoireann Ní Ghríofa’s Lies is translated from the Irish by the author, a Beckettian process of doublework, examined by Anna Cathenka in her review. Other poems have multilingualism at their hearts. ‘Speech’, from L. Kiew’s pamphlet The Unquiet, ‘blends languages in a way that both delights and disorients’, writes Rachel Chanter in her ‘Long Read’ round-up of ten recent pamphlets. (‘I have been eating poetry’, Chanter pronounces with relish). In the same review, Jennifer Lee Tsai’s Kismet is said to seek ‘a line of continuity down the shipping lanes between Liverpool and East Asia’, and Chanter points to the following lines from the pamphlet as evidence of the ‘dulling-down’ that can occur when multilingualism is maligned rather than celebrated: ‘When I speak Cantonese, / I’m a different person. / Louder, brighter’.
Other translations here include music into speech, and Jazmine Linklater writes of Peter Kalulé that his ‘most fluent language is music’; Rowan Evans’s pamphlet, meanwhile, is accompanied by a sound recording as well as by words in Latin, Gaelic, and Old Norse. Hugh Haughton, in his extended review of Ciaran Carson’s Still Life, writes of Carson’s ‘insatiable appetite for metamorphosis’ – partly fed by the poet’s many works of translation. Still Life is replete with poems that take their titles from artworks, making the book an important contribution to ekphrastic poetry – and as Haughton observes, ‘All ekphrasis is a form of translation’.
Reviews themselves are a process of translation – translating feelings, impressions, and research into text – and this issue features, as promised, a further poem-response; that is, a critical review written in poem form. (A review form I innovated for Issue 7 of The Compass.) Katharine Towers responds to the inky darkness and nocturnal rhythms of Niall Campbell’s Noctuary: ‘What could be more bold or private than a father / standing in the dark beside his sleeping child?’ Niall Campbell’s collection features ‘fresh oranges at midnight’; I hope that the books under review in this issue will provide similarly bright moments in the current darkness.
Suzannah V. Evans
Orcas and Grandmothers: Review by Anna Cathenka
I Want! I Want! by Vicki Feaver, Flèche by Mary Jean Chan, Lies by Dhoireann Ní Ghríofa
Fire and Crisis: Review by Degna Stone
The Caiplie Caves by Karen Solie, Surge by Jay Bernard, Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky
‘The I that can be we’: Review by Francesca Bratton
The Million-Petalled Flower of Being Here by Vidyan Ravinthiran, Skin Can Hold by Vahni Capildeo, The Following Scan Will Last Five Minutes by Lieke Marsman, translated by Sophie Collins
Modern Ekphrasis: Review by Hugh Haughton
Still Life by Ciaran Carson
‘Beatitudes of syntax’: Review by Jazmine Linklater
Kalimba by Petero Kalulé, Time Lived, Without Its Flow by Denise Riley, Selected Poems by Denise Riley
Making Sense: Review by Jenna Clake
WITCH by Rebecca Tamás, Discipline by Jane Yeh, Significant Other by Isabel Galleymore
‘The heart at night’: Poem-response by Katharine Towers
On Noctuary by Niall Campbell
Eating Pamphlets: Review by Rachel Chanter
Handling by Jack Thacker, Assembly Instructions by Katie Hale, The Unquiet by L. Kiew, The Last Verses of Beccán by Rowan Evans, Kismet by Jennifer Lee Tsai, Nobody Represents Me by Zeyar Lynn, The Neighbourhood by Hannah Lowe, Our Available Magic by Livia Franchini, Truffle Hound by Luke Kennard, Daddy Poem by Helen Charman