Flarestack, 2005 - £3.00
Liz Atkin takes as her theme the humanness (and often the grotesque otherness) of models built in human likeness. The pamphlet-cover features a dead-eyed, sullen, androgynous being. I must admit, I first mistook it for a living person, but I soon realised it was a shop window model. The 44 poems explore that blur between the living and the lifelike.
I wasn’t disappointed by the creative energy Atkin brought to the theme: a man fashions an effigy of himself and walks off, leaving his old self behind; a little girl drags a deflated sex doll from a skip; a model aeroplane collector peers for hours at the pilots’ faces, which “resemble horrific war/ burns smoothed blind by skin grafts,/ not a single nub of feature left”; a carrier bag slips into wedding photographs like a “grotesque little bridesmaid”; a street cleaning vehicle drones by, driven by a mannequin with its head twisted back to front.
Some poems veered into prose territory, a little loose and uneconomically phrased, and could have been set out in paragraphs without loss. From ‘Familial’:
Your Grandfather added a hoard of tangled
bunting, shop signs and fat seed catalogues
and left them waiting and waiting in that
damp cold dark for the show to begin.
The reason for these line-breaks escapes me.
The best poems worked well and made an impression on me, like ‘There Will Come a Time’, in which robots climb to a parapet, jump off, and repeat the action endlessly, jostling each other like children at a park slide:
eager to do it again,
but robots will never understand
the rules of this particular game.
The poems were, in the main, accessible and engaging. Liz Atkin writes in a plain style that might appeal to people unused to reading contemporary poetry—and I mean that as a compliment.
Rob A Mackenzie