’27 Poems’ by Martin Stannard – Red Ceilings Press


Pyjamas and Ennui

We – those of us who read poetry and therefore obviously listen to music – no doubt all know the dark suggestiveness of the number 27 as in age-of musicians, but there are many other areas of consideration that can be prompted by this.

The Guardian recently ran a food article titled ‘27 eye-opening and invaluable tips from top chefs’. The first two of these were genuinely of interest: putting Marmite in parboiling water so the potatoes will look deep-golden when roasted (a deception, but in times of widespread toxic deceit, this is a moderately palatable – excuse the pun – trick); improving soups and stews by adding chopped, boiled sweet potato for thickening and taste.

That was it though, really. The inevitable ratio of rice-to-water dilemma was addressed with yet another idiosyncratic and unlikely solution.

Wikipedia offers 59 significances of the number 27. None of these mentions food.

In Martin Stannard’s Red Ceilings Press chapbook 27 Poems, there are similarly no such mentions, apart from the generic reference to ‘food and drink’ and the metaphoric expression ‘full of beans’. And then there are the ‘swede saplings’ and ‘beet babies’ and ‘tender carrot kiddies’, but these don’t count, surely, being all about intention and possibility? Even Stannard asks ‘What do you think?’

COFFEE (the title of 1 of the 27 poems) isn’t a food.

You could think Stannard’s reference to books – ‘You might starve without them’ – qualifies as food, but that’s clutching at spaghetti. This is from the poem SOLITUDE which does tap into a recurring theme of isolation and loneliness, often mocked, so a serious concern.

There is a poem titled BANANA which isn’t about this as a foodstuff (on its own, that is, but is with custard) and the references to ‘roast chicken, roast potatoes and Brussel sprouts’ could be seen as a serious dent in my argument up to now, but I would call this a collective ruse as Ars Poetica: evidenced by these closing lines

‘I don’t know why more people don’t write
more poems about these kind of things.
If you want more people to read more poems
you should write more poems about this stuff.
                           I would read them.’

WINE is another poem title but that is the same as COFFEE.

‘Milk’ is mentioned (continuing this theme on Drink, not Food) and this is from a poem titled COW.

And before my rationale gets completely destroyed by the ‘smell of fish’, it is worth looking quickly at a few other recurring poetic commentaries, like those on ‘pajamas’ and ‘ennui’, but also how all 27 poems are tapping into the poles of our daily lives from the domestic to the political and, as in RED, things both deeply philosophical and hilarious, like exploring the nature of reality and the purpose of tissue requirements.

Though Stannard does offer a hint at the central focus of all in this collection with ‘I make stuff up’, he clearly isn’t fabricating an observation on political corruption and general abuse of power when he writes

‘…From thence we’ll repair to
Bernie’s Breakfast Bar and continue to
plan the overthrow of the dastardly despot
who has turned our Paradise of Peace into a
Trading Estate haunted by the shadows of
men and women who linger around puddles
to share desultory banter regarding the
tyrant’s odd sexual preferences.’ (PLAN)

I’m guessing we’ll all have ideas about who this could be.

Another poem ends with the plaintive ‘O, cost of living!’ and it is possible that exclamation mark is denoting an element of the satirical.

I could say more about the familiar delight of reading Stannard’s poetry in this collection – the brisk absurd narratives and the glimpses of a sardonic take on these farces of life as well as the joy/humour in which this is celebrated and exposed – but the Classic Punjabi lamb curry wafting from the slow cooker is telling me my food is nearly ready.

Read more and get here at the excellent Red Ceilings Press: https://www.theredceilingspress.co.uk/product-page/27-poems-martin-stannard

‘So, Rise’ by John Goodby – Red Ceilings Press

This line

‘…Poet, how strong
have you sung an ocean?’

best reflects how I have swum to the plentiful sounds of these poems as much as it affirms the strength of their singing in response to the writer’s rhetorical question.

On my first read of another fine Red Ceilings Press collection, it was this hearing throughout that engaged, poem after poem. It was an important reaction, taking to heart the John Berryman quote at the book’s beginning

‘These poems are not meant to be understood, you understand’

though I know this can’t be true: not entirely because there is always an urge despite the tongue-in-cheek suggestion.

At times, these compact poems sound like the formulation of collage, ideas found in the noise of riffed references as in Debris. But more often, I am comforted (never terrified) by the control of vowels in a poem like The Needles

‘Fell cloud greys, sky-wool
stitch-millions, they spool
the unseen whole, control
through nose and lanolin

purl. Scare like a yarn
spun furled on the one
dive I did, and did ground
on colour, red and’

Yet for all the soothing beauty of what the reader constantly hears, there is also a concern for how language does or does not work, how the poet knits ideas together to reflect the uncertainty of all we try to understand and explain. Therefore, throughout the poems there are references such as doggerel, murmurs, metaphor, simile, ohms, verb, rhetoric, library. There is much more, and I should contextualise some of these words, for example

‘Mint library leather’
‘sweet murmurs’
‘felt-tip verb’
‘clear simile of / volatile’

and so on…

Yet this seems more an aside brought on by that inevitable urge. Better to listen within the sound of ‘O poet’ and another vowelsong line like

‘Anyone could show how love has me now’

I am an

angry old

The editor David Bishop has just archived poems from 2017-19 in then publication Angry Old Man Magazine so I was reminded of the above posting of my redacted poem in AOM, 2018.

This poem is in the collection On the Found (see previous posting on this blog).

angry old1

‘Postcards to Ma’ by Martin Stannard – Leafe Press


Richly Creative/Created Time-Capsule

My tweeted review of this chapbook today was

‘(I have often wondered why people consider me curmudgeonly)’. Indeed! This from a poetic frolic through the liveliest imagination around, a dense narrative that never cloys in its relentless revelations of a holiday’s escapades. Truly delightful.

and that is as focused and meaningful as it probably needs to be.

Stannard’s single narrative poem is so packed with richly constructed, inventive and largely comic detail that to quote extracts really would ruin the pleasure of reading it first-hand, which anyone interested in clever and entertaining poetry should be doing.

What I will add here is an appreciation of the storytelling thread – the ruse of a ‘postcard to Ma’ repetition and the ‘Olympus OM – D E-M10 Mark IV’ camera which are the conduits for observing then reporting all that is experienced and achieved on a holiday beginning at the ‘Hotel Paradiso’ to perpetually explode in its surrounds.

Poetic frolics through ‘crack of dawn’ swims reveal encounters and enactments filtered as well as refracted through lists of relentlessly linked and shifting detail. It is all such a joy to read.

In a world currently determined to self-destruct, our philosophical, psychological, cultural and other templates for determining human existence are preserved in this creative time-capsule for whatever remains after the apocalypse.

Get it at Leafe Press here.