‘Operations of Water’ by Ian Seed – Knives Forks and Spoons Press


‘You know the feeling
with you right next to me

to put it politely
wolfing the cheeky’

[Ziggurat 2]

And so we sit on the new sofa next to these words not knowing whether to sit up straight or go into full recline, and I say (indeed have said): go with the flow.

The opening set of seven poems is a cocktail of neat perfect irregular construction, two-line stanzas where language bursts with surprise moves in their narratives, and it may be that there is more about sitting down,

‘We can expect the cracks
hogged off down the road

their destination plural kissing
decades of bums. There’s this duality’

[Z 6]

but I think the inner maze of the pathways keep us far more active and moving along.

In Domestic this journeying is led with similarly sudden sidesteps but also time-shifts in language, like the line

‘Find the wanton thee by the roadside’

Here is a marriage (within another story) that is romantic/sentimental

‘Come to us via a tear duct’

as much as it is other,

‘Yet down the whitening heal of your cut’

In Ground Rules there is a storytelling that conveys its shifts and mysteries in a fluidity that belies the uncertainty. Here we are in a different pathway, one where we too

‘…reach a solitude that is not
in your control and cannot be sweetened

by the nerve doctor who emerges naked from behind
his door. You find you have learnt a lot of his books
by heart unintentionally, especially the beginnings
of paragraphs. He shows you real things, drills you
and gives you an overcoat with a different plot to it.’

All storytelling is told and heard and imagined in the mix.

The story of Lukewarm after a Wet Dream is less salacious than it is soothing, with beautifully measured and flowing lines. I am not entirely sure, but I have gone with the flow.

I think reminiscence, reflection and the ability, or not, to remember are a continuing feature in the poems. The shiftings of some, as already noted, reflect this in a way. In a wonderful poem Milestone, from the second section, there does seem to be a looking back at an important event/moment (or many) and how this has defined as much as it mystifies. The past is, of course, simply gone, but it was, and perhaps rather than disappeared it is otherwise ‘hidden’ and ‘sometimes fuzzy’. This isn’t being philosophical about it, and a ‘shot of whiskey’ might reveal when the fear of not knowing is gone.

I am used to the expectant delight of Ian Seed’s signature prose poems and their distinctive storytelling, and now the poems in this collection present a broad range of styles (putting it a little simplistically) to enjoy. There is another window, not unexpected, yet opening further the poetic view. The poem Once True is another liquid search through memory, here whatever was between light and dark, a search now like then, and the poem’s narrowed-on-the-page, calm move through is lyrical and sombre and accepting of the urge/need to continue,

was always a lovelier one
you could not reach.’

The third section contains more poems about reflection, interpretation and assessment. Across thirteen parts of four three-lined stanzas of the poem Absences there is a regular and controlled framing of knowing and questioning. There is a palpable sense of regret, of also not knowing and some sadness. There is also a palpable beauty in the slow, steady recall of this, and some sense of how to accommodate it poetically and emotionally,

‘In this incompleteness, I make up
my own story, begin over
and over again without ever

entering the plot, hanging on
to the privilege of not knowing.’

Whereas the earlier poems have the jagged syntax of disruptions in the discoveries, here there is an overall sense of such inevitability,

‘…I have
a friend who says that all journeys

by definition are broken.’

What is real and what isn’t real? What is, is the mood of lament through these which I found genuinely moving. I knocked and this is what I heard.

The collection concludes on the book’s title poem, and the double spaced individual lines of the nine parts of the poem are another stylistic feature of expressing movement and the mantra-flow of the self incantating on want and need and what is. Here again are the shifts in juxtaposing sudden tangents, meaning found in the truths of the flow with which you must go,

‘the motion of wandering the mirror first word

their operation wayward a last note as if lying for’

This is a superb collection – eclectic in its playfulness as well as the plaintive arc across recollections so perfectly poised on their mirroring gracefulness – and if you go to the Knives Forks and Spoons website here you can buy as well as read the three blurbs that convey such an empathetic feel for the poems.

1 thought on “‘Operations of Water’ by Ian Seed – Knives Forks and Spoons Press

  1. Pingback: Poetry Reviews 2020 | gravyfromthegazebo

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