Tim Allen’s Pair


1 – The Indescribable Thrill of the Half-Volley, Tim Allen – Leafe Press
2 – Very Rare Poems Upon the Earth, Tim Allen – Aquifer

Both of these collections reflect Tim Allen’s reverie in exploring and experimenting with how language connects and deflects, slips and slides, and hits the nail or throws the hammer into space, never returning. Either way, hearing the nail struck snug or our being hit by that errant tool, it is an intense experience.


Not entirely sure of the full context, my first ‘note’ on considering for review the poems in The Indescribable… was the following: These poems are a collection of poetic aphorisms (or should that be non-poetic anti-aphorisms) and we can imagine they do not ask or answer their own questions/propositions in the same way I have not made an ingenious parenthetical enquiry.

I obviously understand the allusion to aphorisms and I recall how my initial exploration was in response to the back-cover blurb note ‘this little book embodies refusal…it’s perverse offering of 97 ways of looking at what cannot be seen’ and thus then my reference to anti-aphorisms.

Having read more since that initial engagement, I think one couplet (the poems are all in pairs of couplets) from 65. invisible problem says it better than my early exploration,

‘If you insist on putting one word in front of another
At least try to resist their significance’

and it is the caveat of that assertion which urges the reader to actually wholly engage with the playful significance of these random couplets of ever-shifting meaningfulness.

The collection’s opening 1. invisible signature breathes it nicely,

‘The photo of nothing in particular was a dry wave
Hidden in its trough – something eating between breaths

The seafront waited for that nothing in particular
Anything returned there would be metaphoric hurt’

The move from ‘dry wave’ to ‘Hidden in its trough’ is as elusive as it should be in this first of many trajectories, and to ponder otherwise might prompt one to take comfort in an inevitable ‘metaphoric hurt’.

There is wonderful mystique as a pair of pairs like

‘You have to put yourself out there
Among the seagulls and flattery of crashed planes

Landfill perfumes articulate planetary appetites
A word shared by different languages is an agitation’
(83. invisible prize)

and then there is the line from 37. invisible home

‘The snooker game made the pint last a long time’

which makes such immediate sense (not that it won’t evade another time).

And because I always enjoy the lyrical wherever I may find it, these poems can and do go there with beautiful sound and imagery,

‘Dry gradations slot into watery graves
Longship slips into rivermouth (last year its hips stuck)

This butterfly search for a suitable size
Comes to rest on a flower already buckling beneath beauty
(35. invisible masthead)

Reading this collection is all about the ride and the joy of it, being taken to the edge for a thrill or a hesitant moment of consideration for that uncertainty.

More details and to get, go here: https://www.leafepresspoetry.com/2023/03/the-indescribable-thrill-of-half-volley.html


Very Rare… is a collection of ‘128 improvisations’ and these provide journeys through narratives that take direct and at times indirect prompts from one word/phrase to the next. Each separately titled per-page poem can, as with Laughter, start on a playfully ‘obvious’ run like

‘social / social club / socialism / socialist / sociology’
(my forward slashes instead of gaps as on the page…thus whole pages later for illustration)

to then finish on an apparent tangent of improvised connections

’19 elephant em/bryos / mountain climbing boyos / all professional confession’

That said, the connections are usually there, separated by both literal space but also the subtle pause-shift across links. This is hard to explain (is it not obvious…) so best to illustrate with a view of a complete improvisation from Timeless, the page after Laughter,


The traverse here has clever links to draw us to confront some surprises. Contrast this with the virtuoso connections and leaps here


and the teasing irony of the line ‘the circle opens as predicted’. Obviously, it is the surprising momentum within individual improvisations that keeps the reader listening, each line ‘a mini opera performed mute for an audience of / one’.

Ridiculous to compare these two texts: they are similar and totally different. I am enjoying both, and would suggest you pause here and there for whatever pausing brings.

More details and to get, go here: https://glasfrynproject.org.uk/w/8410/tim-allen-very-rare-poems-upon-the-earth/

Tattoo on the Arm

It is a dementia of the skin, aged
and forgetting its survival skills,
with those few tattooed letters of
family dissolving by the Efudix.

We called it ‘prison text’ – imagining
this meaningful – but he was
illiterate in an art of that ink, and his
own scrawl should have warned.

Mistakes are ours but atrophying
is the last new discovery. Mine will
scar, but she is in the disappearing
act deeper than a surface of flesh.