Variant Air, Richard Osmond
HappenStance Press, 2014 £4.00
My neighbours probably hate me now
This collection describes itself as a ‘celebration of the style and manner of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ and of ‘Anglo-Saxon alliterative’ poetry. Unfortunately, while I can claim to be vaguely familiar with both, I can’t pretend to be anything of an authority on either. Or in fact, maybe ‘vaguely familiar’ is pushing it… I read some of Beowulf once.
What I would like to talk about, however – and what really pleased me, even if I do know very little about metre, rhythm, or prosody – was how the poetry in this collection sounds. I might not be able to say ‘ah yes, these techniques – so skilfully borrowed and adapted from Gerard Manley Hopkins’ or ‘what great alliterative verse this is’ or anything like that; but what I can say is that I read some of the poems from this collection aloud, and this was incredibly satisfying.
The poems are scattered with delightful words and phrases. Here are a few of my favourites –
of broccoli’s fractal beauty’
‘Bloom, occluding clouds of cacophonous cadence.’
‘at colossal cost, unlost and catalogued, kept
against the dulling wish of death, the whitewash
‘[ ...] allow
the fricative-liquid blend and velar-plosive
stop to ring, in rising tones’
You can call me lowbrow, but aren’t those just great to say to yourself?
Now that my neighbours have heard me through the walls and, without any context, believe me to be attempting to summon the Devil (there’s quite a bit of Latin and Catholicism in these poems, which is easily misconstrued if overheard) I think all that’s left for me to say is that, in all seriousness, I would thoroughly recommend that you read this collection. Preferably out loud.