Thursday, 5 May 2011

'Wildlife' by Rupert M Loydell

I'd relish observing a Jehovah's Witness call at the home of Rupert Loydell to present the singular certainty of his or her perverse world view. This desire is more than surreal or mischievous imagining: on the evidence of the playful and poignant poems in Rupert's latest collection Wildlife, that JW representative of decisiveness would get combative short shrift from this poet's rampant pluralism.

Rupert Loydell is Senior Lecturer in English with Creative Writing at University College Falmouth, and the editor of Stride and With magazines. He is also a prolific and distinctive poet/writer. What I admire most is the honesty of his contemplation - from the domestic to the complex, to offer a simple set of poles - and the craft of the writing, the latter honed from years of experimentation, collaboration and a determination to use style and pattern for purpose, never affectation or adornment.

Two poem titles from this latest collection Asking Why and Learning Curve would provide neat summations of all the poems' preoccupations. The book title too offers its clues: 'wildlife' does have its obvious definition, but if you bifurcate that to its two root words we begin to engage in the collection's exploration, for example how the adjectival 'wild' comments on 'life' as a whole in its uncertainties and uncontrollability, or more precisely on the wildness of language and meaning used to interpret and define our lives/living. The poems represent this by showing variously the child's innocent misreading/misunderstanding/misinterpretation, for example from the poem Wildlife where someone

'asks if you could draw crows
but you drew ants in a wood'

and from 1 of 21 Animals Are Not Your Friends

'Animals are not your friends. They lie.
The egret on the river bank turned out
to be a plastic bag trapped in the reeds',

and then the adult's unwillingness and/or inability to be sure about the complexities of these same realities. Everything is here in this collection: drinking, sleeping, war, watching TV, sailing, death, going online, teaching, feeling lost, taking the piss, loving, watching your children, and questioning the reality and meaning of any of this.

If the above sounds convoluted and pretentious then that's the point because it's my fault as reviewer whereas Rupert Loydell manages to tease it out through playful and genuinely profound - but always accessible - ruminations. His is art; mine is stumbling to narrate and analyse what the careful control of a poem is so much better at presenting.

That playfulness is evident in the self-mocking and utterly honest When I Sleep and a poem about the writing process Rescue Mission that promotes streaking. Ink Blots is a manifesto for the multiplicity of meaning and comprehension

'....I prefer the enormous power/of doubt and reticence'

as well as a premise for living: there we go - 'wild' as a 'premise'. I like that.

There are 21 repetitions of Animals Are Not Your Friends - that's if I counted the number correctly - and of course these are not really repetitions but versions and echos and rewritings and they are the core of the collection's search and discovery.

I want to write more about individual poems, for example Notes From the War Against Going Mad which is beautifully contemplative, but the idea is to encourage others to read and enjoy and engage.

I only received my copy from Amazon today - and strongly encourage anyone reading this to also buy - so I have much more reading and re-reading and revealing to enjoy. I'll close this brief review with a casual close from the poem Line by Line which is deceptively simple in the way it dismisses art and intention, and, in doing so, reminds the reader that there is uncertainty, the mundane and decisions to be made about the meaning of this in what we do and how we try to write about it:

'Earache has subsided but tiredness and flu
appear to have set in. If this poem wanted to
it would reveal more and try for tears
but as it is, my daughters are hungry
so this is the last line.'

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