|Posted by firstname.lastname@example.org on January 19, 2021 at 3:30 PM|
Review: Larksong Static by Martin Malone
The poems of Larksong Static, Martin Malone’s superb selected verse from the last fifteen years, form an eclectic mappa mundi of love and loss, life and death, charting ‘its contours as surely / as our own’ line after line.
Through its eighty-four pages Malone is both Thomas Hardy and Peter Buck; a poet of lyrical landscapes and jangling post-punk portraits; whose subjects range from the ‘earthworks’ of Barbury Castle to Truman Capote’s ‘old room / at the Pensione de Lustro’ via the late-night, early-morning ‘Prodigals’ where ‘we ease deep into chairs / each snugging the glove of shared hunger.’ One moment we catch him shaving his sick mother’s head in ‘Like I Was Your Girlfriend’ and the next he is ‘Mic-ing The Kit’ or waiting for REM’s Green World Tour to roll into town. And yet there is no discord in such diverse shifts of attitude and approach. The beautiful ‘On An Afternoon Like This She Takes A New Lover’ — with its pitch-perfect ‘man-trap of memory’ — performs a delicate and moving duet alongside ‘Mrs Mounter, circa 1914,’ where the backwards leap in time and space requires nothing more than a simple step or the turning of a page. Through these poems, and so many others in the collection, we travel lightly amongst our unique and universal griefs.
Next we come to Malone’s greatest achievement: the masterful prose-poem fragments of The Unreturning. Pieces such as ‘Mr Willets Summertime’ and ‘Wanton Boys’ foreshadow what lies ahead, but the almost cubist use of language — soldier slang meets twenty-first century tech-speak — is something entirely and vitally its own. Take, for example, ‘Clickbait’s’ ‘unreality of it all’ where dawn ‘lifts too quickly at your shoulder’ and ‘somewhere high a lark sings and off clicks the safety-catch,’ or Tommy’s ‘pixellated soul’ lost in the Great War as war-game of ‘Futureproof.’
But the ghosts of Ypres and Passchendale and the Somme, if not laid to rest, in due course cede their broken ground to the bright coast of Scotland, and a slow renewal of life: ‘trimming / the void to light / as another day / answers for itself.’ The sequence of five short poems for the artist Bryan Angus that close-out the book offer a quiet salvation in the ‘idiom of line and light’ where ‘everything feeds into this,’ and Malone’s craft of life-as-verse glimmers with the hard-earned hope of redemption.
Even without this timely selection, Malone would be a significant poet of elegance and experimentation. But now, once and for all, he has proven he is deserving of far greater recognition, and his renewal of the English nature lyric will long outlive the scrolling newsfeed fashions of the contemporary scene.
Larksong Static: Selected Poems 2005-2020 is available to order from Hedgehog Press.
Or you can order a signed copy directly from the author here: www.martinmalonepoetry.com/collections