No 170 - 2002
Lost Days, Stephen Papadopoulos, Leviathan and Rattapallax £8.00
These poems of place - Greece, America, Paris, St. Lucia, UK - depend on the poet’s capacity for the vignette, the snap-shot, the swift conjuring of mood. These poems, particularly the Greek ones, reveal an intent and faithful eye and effortless fluency. The Greek ones in particular because they are small windows into a bigger, darker historic canvas. The radiance of panoramic Greece provides the backdrop to places maimed and scarred and to the small anecdotes of the fragile heroes contained within it: ‘Mavraki’:
In the burnt yellow afternoon light of Kouzi,
Mavraki sits with the old men -
leather boots left to dry in the sun.
Wars move quickly, there there is the
The sun moves across the pockmarked wall
rust stains lead down from railings.
the tear marks of iron eighty years exposed.
But there’s a risk in the vignette that, even with the intent eye of Papadopoulos, we remain with a statement of what is and no more. The description gives no hint of the significance that led the poet to choose this rather than another scene. In ‘Scotland on Sunday’, nothing hints at what might lie behind and before this moment:
I sip weak coffee in a cracked porcelain
cup by some cloudy street-side window.
Blood pudding, sausage, ham and eggs
stiffen on the Formica countertop.
In a corner, under economy lights,
a bald man and his wife study a blue
The smoke climbs from a cigarette
like a cry for help. Outside the rain, and here,
The inexhaustible day.
And there’s another risk with the vignette, particularly with an artist as swift in his capturing as Papadopoulos - and these are wonderfully swift poems - that you grab easy means to deepen or complete or add significance to the picture that actually weakens its impact:
...as the accordion, clarino, and gut-stringed
crank out the memories of village squares
like a pack of cards, where the days are hung
on the thin rasp of a cicada...
...when they walked, bumping shoulders
with nothing but the quiet streets
and the possibility of morning.
This kind of conjuring can lead to metaphors both mixed and inept. Furthermore the conjuring of atmosphere is a dangerous activity nowadays because of the widespread hijacking of poetic image for commercial purposes - particularly dangerous with places like Paris:
Yes, you return to bridges,
like lovers and suicides...
...to smoke and count river boats,
while someone plays Blue Seven
under a corbel vault...
In the St. Lucia poems, behind the brief conjuring of a place and its ethos as a visitor one hears the more powerful voice of Derek Walcott, powerful because deeply rooted there (as in the Greek poems here). Nevertheless the intensity of observation, the fluency and a psychological stance that captures an emptiness behind the watching makes this collection an impressive dedication to the chosen places and people.
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Grosseteste Review
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
- Poetry Wales
- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The