Jazz, music more widely, certainty and uncertainty, the breakages in/of meaning – these are the opening stories of the seemingly perfunctory but expansive poems by Reuben Woolley.
The opening poem & all that jazz presents an emotional attachment to jazz [can there be any other?]
and this along with other music, the ‘flattened fifth’ of the blues in open skies, will be a recurring visit [jazz again in a later poem muted], that is if, as this poem warns perhaps, we hear the meaning of the story accurately in its ‘mongrel words’.
The uncertainties are implied in counting [whole poem] where
but also in the paradoxes in talk of
which seems assured until
A love poem deserts embraces these dualities too, the lay-out on the page a perfect mime,
The shifts and uncertainties get reflected in further paradoxical uses of recurring words, like the positive ‘bend’ of jazz notes in that opening poem, or in last bus / nowhere the elusiveness of
The uncertainties in life/of life are further narrated in the poems chemistry and lifeline where we are all ‘missing something essential’ whether it is a god that ‘is dead’ or the ‘different readings’ of a relationship.
In later poems in the book we are in the same story of shiftings, where in tideless
and in weft
For me, the many poems about music in this collection provide a thread for the celebration and disappointments inherent in every story told about what we want and need to tell. The flattened notes and the bends in playing are both disruption and nuance in our interpretations. I think these poems are steeped in the narrative of the blues, the ‘atoms’ in the ‘blue’ of life – take their dancing as you will.
In the blue violin the slight dissonance of playing, and doing so ‘in crescendo’, is a statement of intent – ‘to be dangerous’ – but in the poem muted, mentioned earlier, playing with intent, and however stylised, there will still always be the broken stories [not written/played, but experienced] as
In these poems, Reuben Wooley is listening out for those missing notes, sometimes catching in what might seem like an improvisation but what are actually precisely structured pieces, or waiting as they continue to elude, as in talks
This is a sharp, distinctive collection of poems, and the book itself is wonderful, a surprise to me as a hardback and superbly printed, and only at £10, available many places, but go to email@example.com to order direct which I recommend for all the good reasons mentioned.