Sunday, 5 April 2009

March's Poet: Leontia Flynn

So, as promised, slightly out of the month, the first poet, who is 35 and Irish, and certainly female. Leontia Flynn's Drives is her second book, and the title encapsulates many of her themes. There are poems about literal drives, journeys taken at home and abroad, and about the personal ambitions and needs which drive us on, interspersed with poems about the driven - authors and artists explored through the first person voice.

I liked this book, liked the poems in it, but I didn't love it, or any of them. There's no individual poem which leapt out and grabbed me, demanding to be revisited when needed. My favourite, and the one which came closest, was a poem on Rome:

Rome wasn't built in a day. 'Rome?
We will take the lot in one short afternoon.'

There were others that came close too. 'Song' which can be found online here and an ironic poem about parodies of country songs which ends with the abandoned narrator quoting 'if the phone doesn't ring, baby you'll know it's me...' For me, the strongest images were the ones from her own life - the domestic heartbreak of a father suffering from dementia, or the aftermath of his death, and the glorious triumph of the poem addressed to her unborn child, a note of hope on which the book ends (rather like Carol Ann Duffy's The World's Wife). The sonnets about Dorothy Parker, Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf all resonate too.

And, I have to say, there are moments when you really like her. The idea of a 'pastoral' being a Sunday morning with the papers, cds and coffee; Ozymandias mixed with the White House, and a Christmas poem that likens Christmas to cholera. Reading the book again, to write about it, I find myself warming to the poems anew, and thinking maybe I've been too damning with faint praise. Perhaps these are drives which need to be familiar journeys before you can really see the details of the countryside as it whizzes past.

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