Reviewed by Marie Marshall, Robin Ouzman Hislop’s 2015, All the Babble of the Souk. Collected Poems.

    Robin Ouzman Hislop’s new collection of poems – I find myself wondering instead of just reading on and enjoying the ride. Because Robin’s poetry is often just like that, a ride, which contains lines like –

    The hag in her rags begs her bag
    holding all shadows to account.

each a new thought after a pause for breath, or so it seems, each with an image that sparkles, almost with effrontery. That’s how I like my poetry – image, sound, and bare-faced cheek.
As the images pile up, or maybe I unearth more as I drill down, discovering depth in the poetry, the typographical puzzles pile up too, and I begin to wonder if they are deliberate cantrips on the poet’s part. I hope they are. I hope they are, because I want to trust the poet’s intentions. I know he’s not your average Internet Joe, but a man with a mean, keen pen. He knows how to play, how to make free, how to brew poetry:

    Riding along in our dream machine
    our virtual reality all but a scream
    no exit
    blood on the wind screen, faithful Fido’s gone
    the machine’s a mess, – every where’s a gas.

    A trickle through a diaphanous sheen
    a thin crust peels, roll the dice
    a question of ethics, the cost of life.

Y’know, somewhere along the line, Ezra Pound and John Cooper Clarke rolled dice for this man’s soul, and I can’t say who won. Maybe he walked away laughing while the bones still tumbled, soul intact. I hope so. He has the measure of our suburbs, seeing how

    gleamed cleaned cars
    the phallus of a Sunday afternoon

let us (you’re here too, and I have morphed into ‘we’) catch our reflection in that polished surface, wondering how to measure the depth of the shine. Meanwhile

    Danger, Deep Water, Keep Out

As if we could. There are caesuras in this collection, but they almost seem accidental, as though titles, page breaks, and stars merely interrupted a flow of thought momentarily. The collection has the feel of a single work, as though the poet sat down, started at the beginning, wrote the middle, and stopped at the end. See? The golden arches of a fast-food outlet, the taunts of a cuckoo, big Sunday words like ‘bifurcation’, ‘pheromone’, and ‘olfactory’, all rub shoulders, and rub along. We ride. It’s the same ride all the time, but the scenery outside the window shifts, and fellow passengers come and go. Occasionally we get off, but only to stretch our legs

    As we celebrate
    life lies dead on the table
    we eat it.

and then the ride starts again. But a short offering like that reminds me that on the return journey I must insist on long enough to read each poem on its own…
and I’m by myself again, closing the book at its final page. Second impressions:
The poet is aware of the shape of his work on the page, of its concreteness. The poet knows when to be serious and when not to, and he knows when to muddy the water of each with the other. When he says ‘Watch my stick’, you hear ‘This means you!’ The poet can make a dream return from the rubble of artifice. I know poetry when I see it.


 
 
Bio – Marie Marshall (3rd person)

MM is a middle-aged Anglo-Scottish author, poet, and editor, who says little about herself, preferring to let her writing speak. She has had three novels published, two of which are for the young adult / older children readerships. Both of her collections of poetry are currently in publication. Naked in the Sea (2010) in its 2nd imprint, is available in e-book form direct from publishers P’kaboo and in Kindle version on Amazon; the 1st imprint may still be available in print, if you enquire at Masque Publishing of Littlehampton. I am not a fish, nominated for the 2013 T S Eliot Prize, may be bought direct from publishers Oversteps Books. Marie has had well over two hundred poems published in magazines, anthologies, etc., but has not submitted anything since 2013. The most unusual places in which her poetry has appeared are on the wall of a café in Wales, pinned to trees in Scottish woodland, and etched into an African drum in New Orleans Museum of Art.


 
 
 
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