Saturday, 27 February 2010

‘Mechanical as well as natural’

Natural Mechanical again, and no apologies for returning to it. Two more reviews this week.

The first is on the Undiscovered Scotland website, not a place where you’d usually look for a poetry review. In fact the reviewer seems almost surprised by the form the book takes: ‘Natural Mechanical is a beautiful, lyrical book . . . Perhaps the most fascinating thing about the book is that although the content is biographical and the storyline like a short novel, it is actually told as a narrative poem . . . Natural Mechanical is very likely to increase significantly the number of people who regard themselves as readers of poetry.’

Hannah Salt in Magma (the March issue, not yet up on the site) attends to the prosody, and more. ‘Natural Mechanical is a higher achievement than Barry Hines’ A Kestrel for a Knave, with which it has some similarities, because it is more finely written. The verse is spare, clear, almost without simile or metaphor, building its effects and narrative thrust by noting details precisely and moving on. Rhythmically it moves constantly toward and away from iambic pentameter . . . There is restraint of language and also restraint as regard for truth . . . The book’s other achievement is that it treats Rocky not as a figure of pathos like Billy Caspar nor as a romantic hero, but as a boy who makes his way in the real world of social and economic relationships. His father works for the AA, Mr Ogilvie starts a chain of sandwich bars in Edinburgh, Rocky must get his rabbits to the butcher before they turn maggoty and must eventually teach himself a trade, in his case repairing machines. He is mechanical as well as natural.’

Which is where the above photos come in. As well as repairing others’ machines, Rocky has his own projects. The first photo shows the rusted chassis of a Brooklands Riley, circa 1929, as it was in his workshop when I visited Rocky last April. The second photo, from a book, shows what he’s aiming to achieve, the Brooklands Riley as good as new. And he’ll get there, as long as he doesn’t run out of money. All of us – engineers, poets, publishers – live in this so-called real world. Buy the book.

(Two editions – plain CBe-style cover, colour cover – available: see previous post.)

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