Humbert Summer, winner of the 2014 Melita Hume Poetry Prize, is a memorable début from a promising young poet. Already feted by The Times as 'one to watch' and an Oxford English graduate at 23, this book perhaps shows what A.K. Blakemore was up to between train and secondary school. Some of these poems were composed whilst many were cramming for their GCSE’s though Blakemore's interplay of words, convent girl crushes, Japanese fetishes and inevitable and depressive ‘sinking on the stairs’ are relayed with quiet emotion. At their best the poems show an older voice with a bite of killing honesty; Blakemore may be a female counterpoint to that old ‘male spider in a trenchcoat’, that ultimate 1960's era hipster, Leonard Cohen whose, poem in Energy of Slaves:
"I didn't know until you walked away you had a perfect ass.
Forgive me for not falling in love with your face or your conversation."
echoes Blakemore’s sardonic eye:
This is one for the
Girl who has lain a short way
While his body recoils
Like a cinder
And felt part of nothing
You might be forgiven for thinking of the goth girl smoking the cigarette with the cutting remarks, catching you trying to look cool, too. At first, you worry that the sarcasm might be too strong, the façade too easy to hide behind. This is echoed in the very funny HATE
‘She believes the earth laughs through flowers and other asinine things…’
‘Ross and Rachel’ get the poet’s lens trained on them as well.
In ROSS AND RACHEL AS INVERTEBRATES, the annoyingly ‘in love’ couple are watched by two twenty-something singletons, perhaps on a train in from the south downs?
However we feel a sense that the skin is not as thick as it might pretend to be, that Rachel has bits of that comfort and perhaps experience about her that the others may also long for? And this hidden ongoing tension is also what makes you wonder what Blakemore will come up with next?
There are memorable moments here.
In YOU ENVIED THE STARS THEIR HEIGHT
‘The day folded like a cabbage
while closing its wings on a windowsill.’
As a poet, more than capable of talking head lice (in Lower school?), Ganymede, Greek Temples and calling time on weak, selfish men, you might recall those college and/or school days and perhaps ‘envy’ the girl her time.
Labels: A.K. Blakemore, Eyewear, Literary Reading, London, Melita Hume Poetry Award, Poetry, The Times, Todd Swift