Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

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Battling Against the Odds, Oliver CominsThe dominant colour is an orangey brown, with the whole thing probably in two tones, with black for the lines. And the cover shows a full picture, in a slightly old-fashioned style, of two men, in plus fours and gaiters, on a putting green. One is bending and just about to take his shot. In the top third there is the club house and a few trees, with hills behind them. The title of the pamphlet in black and lower case, is in the bottom tenth of the jacket and stretches from one side of the page to the other: Battling Against the Odds'. The name of the author, lowercase but much smaller, is centred below this.

Templar Poetry, 2016   £6.00

What if the theme is not your cup of tea?

My dad would have loved this little book of golf-themed poems. It’s funny; there’s lots of ‘in’ jokes and gentle nudging, some wonderful anecdotes, and a relaxed, highly literate style.

However, my mother was a golf widow and my sister and I were golf orphans. So maybe I wouldn’t have picked this up on a book stall, except as a gift for a golfer. But I trust this poet of old, and so I did buy it. And enjoyed it – yes, and found many points of interest, but I am only allowed one here.

So it’s food. My dad used to come back from a day on the golf course saying he’d had nothing to eat all day. That ‘nothing’ usually included at least a plate of buttered crumpets and jam in the clubhouse. Even now, I can envy the thought of those crumpets. And Oliver Comins evokes that self-same culinary deliciousness, with his trademark verbal wink. In ‘Halfway House’, there’s

Bacon and egg in a roll plus a steaming mug
of cavalry coffee. Grilled sausage and mash
with gravy and iced water. You are unlikely
to need extra pepper sauce with this curry.

I don’t want to give the impression that the poems are full of food – far from it. Besides, you wouldn’t want to eat in

            Cold Shoulder – a corner of the bar
where the price of a dram is quite different
and the final cost of a meal can be
a drawn-out silence

But one of my favourites – and I would love it anywhere – is ‘Breakfast at Turnberry’, and it’s the breakfast of a champion golfer – a feast – in a feast of a poem that requires no knowledge at all of golf.

Which reminds me that ‘Slipstream’ also rises effortlessly above and beyond theme, so much so that the word ‘golf’ is suddenly something else. Good poetry can do this. So I’ll end with enough to give you the flavour: 

A smear of golf above untold depths
of rock, planet layers on which
we scuttle. Look how far that new
ball runs, into the pearly distance
where we all land eventually.

Helena Nelson