A.C.Bevan, The Encyclopaedist; Nicolas Murray, The Migrant Ship; Jo Dixon, A Woman in the Queue, (Melos Press, £5.00).

A.C.Bevan’s The Encyclopaedist is subtitled ‘A ready reference in 16 volumes’. The contents page somewhat belies that subtitle as the sixteen poems in the pamphlet are each given an alphabetical designation, beginning with A-AU, and ending with ZA-ZY. The poems themselves start with ‘Fatwa’ and finish with ‘Encyclopaedia Salesman in a Wikipedia world’. This latter poem urges its readers to ‘Unite O fellow idealists &/ laggard late adopters!/ Smash the engines, shoot the masters!!/ Rise up the encyclopaedists’. Immediately followed by a cod addition ‘{{This article is a stub. You can help by deleting it}}’

Bevan is a poet with both elan and technical virtuosity. The first poem in the pamphlet ‘Fatwa’ is a shape-poem, whose spirals mimic the ‘single strand of DNA’ which is the first line. But lest the reader fall into the trap of thinking that this is just showmanship, Bevan finishes his poem with considerable pathos, suggesting that that single strand ‘would fill/encyclopaedias/with the kismet/& minutiae of/why &/wherefore/I shall die’. Elsewhere in this extremely satisfying 23 page pamphlet, Bevan shows himself and equally dextrous sonneteer; his preferred form in this pamphlet. An example of this is the poem ‘Carefully’ which plays on the answer to the old question about how hedgehogs might make love. And again it is the ending which pulls the rug out from underneath the comedy, ‘So too our heat-seeking advances,/snuffling retreats,/descended into bedroom farce//in between the sheets/ we lay bristling, invulnerable,/wrapped up in ourselves.’ This shows Bevan is not only dextrous, but like the Metaphysical whose play he emulates, the dexterity is at the service of reflections on a very real world.

Nicolas Murray, biographer of, amongst others, Bruce Chatwin and Andrew Marvell, is a pamphlet publisher in his own right. He is equally well known as a polemicist in verse; his political satire on the Coalition government Get Real, was described by the TLS as a ‘bravura display of finely-controlled outrage’; written in virtuosically turned Burns stanzas. And, as I unpacked this pamphlet The Migrant Ship, in the office, one of my colleagues remarked on the title, ‘Very topical’. Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. Murray’s lovely, lyrical title sequence might well be a response to the crisis we see happening in the Mediterranean. But, much more than a political gesture, it is a first-person narration from a migrant’s point of view. As such it becomes political in that Murray takes us, with consummate and delicate skill into the mind of the migrant. And the writing becomes hard-hitting in its lovely simplicity, as in the final two verses, I remember my yearning/ for the comfort of sleep/ where I hoped to forget/ the need for this journey.// I remember the box/ that I felt for with fingers/ that knew its hinged lid/ opened on nothing.’ Murray has achieved that very difficult trick of being a prose writer, who writes lovely, beautifully turned, lyrical poetry.

Jo Dixon’s equally fine pamphlet comprises enigmatic narratives. The narratives range from one about a neonate intensive care unit (‘NICU’), to Flo’s last day at the shop, via a cod-interview with someone who seems to be an American tribal shaman. Dixon manages the difficult trick of so getting inside the perspective of the narrator, that we see them looking out. One such is the narrator in ‘Dead Ringers’, who is ‘waiting at the lights’ when he sees a clearly drunken women outside a pub, ‘And she’ll be wearing/ the same boozy perfume/ that once seeped/ from the bedsheets as he/ tucked them around his wife.// The flatbed in front pulls away.’ What’s noticeable here is Dixon’s ability not only with the plain, but quietly rhythmic language, but her deft way with line-breaks. All of which couches a neatly unfolding fiction.

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