‘Stack’ by James Davies – Carcanet


This excellent book-length ‘minimalist’ poem reveals what it has to reveal gradually, somewhat like the ‘broken bit of skirting’ and ‘stair-rod’ of the first page become less disparate in the disparate observational continuum of the whole, especially when bits of building are mentioned within a lineage of ‘a hedgehog’, ‘a grapefruit’ and ‘pigtails and mushrooms’ that take us up to page 27, a page that ends with the line

‘i’m at home wearing new trousers and making intuitive drawings’

The poetic and other philosophies within all of this are as simple as the simple items described and the direct observation of

‘2 buddhas make some soup’

‘one makes it differently’

What engages and amuses and surprises [so I’ll only mention one so as not to ruin for your own reading] are the ways in which observations are repeated but altered, as is the unfixed nature of any observation as well as interpretation and the fact of difference – so, for example, references to lemons can be

‘a pile of lemon and lime skins’


‘a witness to a lemon on a slag heap’

As we read we are experiencing the world in all of its mundane to complex existences, and occasionally there is the deeper contemplation of this

‘meditation on sulphur, calcite and stibnite’

to the variation on a theme

‘i saw her eat a lime’

Did she eat the lime

‘behind the wall’

because this is the chronology of the observation, or have we moved on and beyond?

Perhaps the questioning within the text becomes more taxing than our own, but in the end only we can decide

‘examine the difference between a blue plastic put next to me and
placing myself next to a blue plastic’

There are no new narratives but this is one of them. It is a sequence that genuinely surprises and delights, but you must have the perseverance to match the writer’s stamina for discovery, for example

‘the first 1000 google images of yellow paper cups 28/4/13’

More details and to purchase here.

1 thought on “‘Stack’ by James Davies – Carcanet

  1. Pingback: Poetry Reviewed 2017 | mikeandenglish

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