Wednesday, 18 May 2011

What I'm Saying About Him: A Review.

What They Say About You – Eddie Gibbons: A Review.

Eddie Gibbons is a Liverpudlian living in Aberdeen. I've always liked the soft pudding like pud sound in pudlian and Gibbons is a Pudlian Poet and an accomplished one at that. He has the technical skill to weave his pen (or, press his keys) between form and formlessness with ease. He has all the inventiveness a quality wordsmith should – juggling word play, toying with double meaning, jiving with associations, balling with rhetoric, scattered with allusions; the books buzzes with trickery, mischief and comedy.

'What They Say About You is a large collection with over a 143 pages of poems (and notes at the end which actually 'elaborate/explain' what some of the poems are about), written in a humorous, swift and wry tone. Ranging in themes from football to Fathers, medical examinations to Buddha's girlfriend. He weaves these poems a lightness of touch and linguistic ingenuity. Gimmickry and pun's are here by the ton. An unashamed optimism dominates the entire tone of the book - it points towards the light - it finds a crack of light in the waiting room - not miserablism here, thank the light. There's an inventiveness, whimsy and joymongering in absurdities of language, that reminds a touch of Rough McGough, and contains a similar oddball humour and quackery as John Hegley.

Gibbons method is one of poetic gadgetry – using puns, revelling word play, breaking meanings – to tease out the possibilities of a poetic idea, in the poem 'Peridiotic Table' he uses word association and punning to reimagine the list of elements and their 'compound poetic properties' i.e. 'Hydrogin/Drunkeness' 'Arsenic/Bottom Pinching' 'Kraptone/Uselessness' 'Idioine/Stupidity' – daft and indulgent, so what, they show love of a childish outlook, a playful and harmless word gamer. Toying with the dictionary. His titles are the best examples of this pun game - 'Death Shall Have No Dim Onion' 'Youthemisms' 'Gin and Miltonic' 'The Uncertainty Principal' 'Relicatessen' 'Fanagrams'. The list goes on and on. Indeed, many of these poems would be fitting in a classroom to encourage children to enjoy language or read poetry. It certainly wouldn't send them off to sleep, for he doesn't weigh the poems down with heavy handed emotionalism or sentimentality or verbosity. At the core muscle of this collection there is a delight in words - of the music of words. Gibbons is as playful as a child playing scrabble in a sandpit (a learned child).

Here is a villanelle by Gibbons, it isn't included in the book, but it is a grand example of a quality form:

A Liverpool Villanelle

My city has no boundaries
It travels where its offspring roam
My thoughts now shape what once shaped me

Old clipper ships and slavery
Are storylines in dusty tomes
A city has no boundaries

Twin talismans of heraldry
Keep vigil on the Liver domes
My thoughts now shape what once shaped me

Black buildings grimed by industry
Where streets are streams of rusting chrome
My city has no boundaries

A boom-time town in ‘sixty three
As frothy as the Mersey foam
My thoughts now shape what once shaped me

Then shiny times, with poetry:
The Cavern’s worldwide metronome
My city has no boundaries

Now Thatcher's plague-years legacy
has left it like some ransacked Rome.
My thoughts now shape what once shaped me

My heart still beats, though distantly
For that far place I still call home
My city has no boundaries
My thoughts now shape what once shaped me

There are many note poems in this collection, whole series of short lined observations or puns or jokes and some of them verge on being a little too frivolous and might not even necessarily be needed in the collection. Perhaps a bit of trimming would have been good but it must have been hard to keep out some of the lighter conceits. That's the only criticism I'd make. If you want outright seriousness or tumultuous soul grinding go for 'Plath' 'Rimbaud' or 'John Donne' - Gibbons seriousness is dressed in jesters gear. He barrages the page with relentless (and effortlessly inventive) 'punishment' – of pundemic proportions, a cunning pundamentalist cutting the word to fit his purpose, he commands a fierce punder storm in the poetic tropic island of the page- as well as a whole host of intriguing and curious malapropisms, spoonerisms, allusions, I'm certain I missed a ton of them as yet to be weeded out with closer reading.

There are moments of melancholy and sadness which are again undercut by Gibbon's resilient humour and lightness, not least in the poem 'The Lung Laundrette' in which a visit to the hospital for an x-ray of the lungs bring's a call a week later from the Doctor, informing us that:

'I'll have to retake the test; that cloudy
area was an error due to insufficient radiation
and not, as first suspected, something sinister.

I cancel the headstone carver,
inform the Minister.'

Eddie Gibbons has a voice that is at once funny, pedestrian and engaging. This book is well worth reading with a pot of tea and a bag of heroin, I mean, biscuits. Eddie has a knowledge of the rules of poetry which allows him to break or toy with them when he wants too. Unlike so many poets these days, who don't care or dare, to learn the rules before destroying/reconstituting them. (I point my finger at thine self; in it hath lodged the doggerelist's skelf). 'What They Say About You' is a pick and mix of poems to gorge on, broad in theme, zipping between subjects, there's a smorgasbord of diversity here - a bee hive of sweet poems.

'What They Say About You' was published in 2011 by Leamington Books. If you would like to read more of the playful poety of Eddie Gibbon's you can read more on his blog 'The Republic of Ed'. You won't be disappointed. I particularly like 'Skywalker' which is as much as good poem as it is a visual (concrete) poem, deciated to the French tightrope walker, Philippe Petit, when he walked on a wire between the Twin Towers. Gibbons is full of flair, games and magic -Punderful! Edifying!