Bull isn’t a bully, but is bullish. And Bull isn’t full of it either, though doesn’t mind pretending. When Bull winks, it is cheeky and endearing. Bull appeals for many reasons, and these are because we recognise.
Bull dominates and controls the environment with clichéd asides and force of personality. Of course, James Roome does this, but to write about Bull as if, is to acknowledge the huge success of the poetic ruse.
Before engaging with the brilliant narrative, I want to observe the wonderful telling in and about the page. It isn’t enjambment in any traditional sense but the shifts and shunts simply work so well, surprising and emphasising and keeping us as readers and the story alive. Martin Stannard states in his back-cover blurb how Bull can be a ‘quick and enjoyable ten minute read’. I haven’t tried that yet, dipping in and out with the pleasure of [and pausing on] its many momentary delights.
Introduced to Bull, he becomes a quick and immediate focus of attention,
‘Bull and I
were in a café
That one that’s always in films
Go on then
tightened their cores squeezed
their rumps peered
over low-slung glasses
at his bulky form He
to the waiter I
wish I could
Bull can balance an e-cig in his muzzle whilst trotting out fake-news maxims as if they are real, and it is the balancing art that mesmerises. How does he do that? Keep us guessing?
In grappling at home with – that’s our persona/James – keeping a loosely fitting dressing gown discrete while at the same time dealing with a visitor who has leather phobia and nowhere to sit, Bull asserts ‘It’s about etiquette’.
No, I don’t know, but if Bull says it, it is.
However, in reading further we move beyond any uncertainty – this playful and engaging – into the lyrical,
‘If you only draw one thing
make it birds
as I draw my pencil over
As he sketched
at the window This
is the life
as he reached
the bird’s taper added
a final wisp of
This is the whole poem [part of, on a page of its own] – and I won’t spoil the delightful pleasure of reading first time by quoting more like this – and it embraces both the style and substance of how these poems so effortlessly [on the surface] sweep us into the strange joys of this world.
Though I now want to quote the first poem [part of] that follows this immediately ‘II. actually, I am Bull’.
But I won’t.
Bull’s rump is muscular and therefore cumbersome but that doesn’t stop him swaggering it about, a swagger so overpowering it is like dropping acid and watching his swagger-induced world change before our eyes. I don’t mean see the rump in patterns moving on a wall – just many other sudden and unexpected things. Like becoming a bird.
Bull is a painter but this is really Roome too and these finely tuned strokes of words brush page after page of captivating art.
When Bull seduces we aren’t really sure if this too is a painting or in a painting or in an allusion. Being covered in paints takes on all kinds of colourful meanings.
I just shot at but missed hitting a pigeon as I was reading the final pages of Bull, somewhere just after,
lifting a sudden
a Smith n’ Wessun’
which seemed to make it OK, my not quite understanding this morph to another story and thus moving outside my comfort zone writing this review. Outdoors. Gun in the conservatory, just in case.
In Ian Seed’s back-cover blurb he writes how Bull ‘reads like Ted Hughes crossed with James Tate’. I had already felt how Bull reads like Crow with a sense of humour, so there you go.
I now have to read it all in that one ten-minute go, and I can’t wait.
You can and really should get it here.