Tag Archives: howl

Tomas Weber on The Claudius App.

Suzanne Takkenberg and the bath – Ardtornish 2012

(Incidentally, I’ve just written an intro to ‘Mercian Hymns’, any kind of feedback would be much appreciated.)

I’ll start with a request. Can poets please stop writing brilliant pieces of work with such frequency? It’s just that I ran out of reasonable/sensible ways to enthuse in best puppy dog fashion in early 2011 and I don’t think I can vary the superlatives any more.

I now need to do a longish letter-

Dear The Claudius App,

First of all, thank you for disturbing me and unsettling me over the last three issues. I’d almost given up on finding a platform that reflects what I think might be Quite Important in these tumultuous times. Thank you also for introducing me to new names and for the Emily Dorman thing which has sparked off a reasonably productive train of thought here.

Now, I’m guessing that I’m much older than you and I’m trying hard not to sound like some bad tempered baby boomer whose cross because the kids aren’t playing by the rules but it’s this site design/affectation gizmo thing that may well be considered cool and pointful in your neck of the woods but for this avid reader is just irritating. Having said that I do applaud the inclusion of audio files which are decently recorded and do what should be done.

So, great and groundbreaking venture (I’m particularly fond of the Manifesto conceit which I’ll write about shortly) but it would be helpful if I didn’t have to amend the url as
a simpler way of getting to the material that I want.

Thanks again,

John

As for Weber the temptation is just to provide the link to his ‘An official word from me out of uniform’ and leave readers to simply read yet another blazing example of why this is a ‘wonderful age for poetry’ (to quote John Bloomberg-Rissman, Neil Pattison, Peter Brown and several others). Of course, I can’t resist having another go at the enthusiasm thing. On this occasion, however, I’m going to try a bit more structure:

Phrasing / Language use

I am a sucker for the neat turn of phrase and Weber provides these in abundance. In fact the initial read was breathtaking due to the density of neat turns and the fact that they had a point and weren’t just placed as a piece of flashy ornament. This is really unusual, many poets become overly impressed with a particular phrase or image and include it for the sake of its cleverness more than its’ relevance to the rest of the poem. I’ll give this as an example of how to do neat phrases properly:

An eight ball of blow and a contract
with the DA's office for Sofitel
voucher codes and next level cheats. In love with the pair
who wore grey Japanese
hakamas on the Mexican escalators. No, no
OK, but what? Chopper out of Vostok
to Progress Station, kite-skiing, golden visitor's book
for those who make it to the site to sign?

‘Sofitel voucher codes and next level cheats’ running on to ‘hakamas on the Mexican elevators’ does show a very rare skill in language and expression. What I think I like most is the way that each poem sets up a pace (rather than a rhythm) and maintains / sustains this throughout accommodating the most extraordinary images as it goes. The above example is only the most florid demonstration of this skill/craft which is on display throughout. With regard to these images, I have to ask what exactly is going on in a mind that can produce the first three lines quoted above- its depiction of the almost overly manic mindset is one that I am very familiar with- and it is done with such flair.

Risk

Taking risks with your work is always a good thing, especially when things don’t quite come off. With this kind of material it is really very easy to fall flat on your face. The annoying thing about Weber is that he takes risks and never falls off. Keston Sutherland falls off, Jeremy Prynne falls off, Geoffrey Hill falls off but Tomas Weber doesn’t which is especially galling for those of us who fall off all the time but also a kind of challenge to work out how this is achieved. My own hypothesis is that this is what I’m thinking of as structured risk whereby the run on in pace feels spontaneous and almost improvised but it’s actually thought through and planned and it’s this structuring that is most impressive because it also needs to hide itself. In a previous piece on Weber’s contribution to ‘Better than Language’, I referred to the ‘insane quality’ of his work but (having re-read) insanity has little to do with it- there’s a very sane and talented mind at work here.

Voice (tone)

I’m tempted to characterise this as ‘faux distant/cool’ in that an initial read through give the feel of analysis, of a skewed grab at objectivity. More attentive readings reveal that is is juxtaposed with a lyrical desperation that’s hinted at but never actually appears. The other facet that becomes clearer with reading is the anthemic quality- I keep hearing ‘Howl’ as I read. None of this may make sense but what is for certain is there is loads of thought provoking stuff going on here.

Theme / genre

Apart from Amerika in all its glory, theres a lot of astute observation about how we are coerced into ‘doing’ culture and how good we’re getting at lying to ourselves. I like to think that what’s going on is best epitomised by-

Some do compromise very nicely
emotional but daddy scrubs up like Jesus Christ so get on.

But, magnificent though this is, it doesn’t do any kind of justice to the quality and provocation of the sequence as a whole which needs to be thought of as running a single and coherent observation.

Conclusion

The above is another failed attempt to articulate how good/talented/important Weber’s work is and a further indication that the young talents (Weber was born in 1990) currently working in the UK provide the rest of us with the privilege and delight of reading them and smiling and being staggered and more than a little jealous and struck by how some of this stuff is breaking new ground for poetry above and beyond the tired old labels and judgements that my generation have made.