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George Simmers knows who the Pokémonare.
And if that hasn’t got your attention (perhaps you don’t know who the Pokémon are?), then listen up.
Light is a 48-page booklet, containing twenty poems, two of which are collaborations with K.M.Payne, and four of which were originally set to music. They range in content from parodies of Wordsworth to duets between Sinbad the Sailor and a cow. All save one are ‘light’, the mission of the booklet being to defend light verse. In an eponymous poem, Simmers declares war against those who demean this genre: “’serious’ just might/ at times mean seriously shite”.
Not all succeed. Notably, the author’s experiments with monorhyme grate and some of the longer poems drag more than they fly. But most do work, and among these some are excellent. ‘Seminar’, in which an academic bullies the meaning out of a poem, is a personal favourite. Speaking of its iambic feet, the speaker snarls:
They’re filthy with tradition.
They tell a story.
You’re comprehensible, you bitch.
You’re a crypto-Tory.
Also superb are the poet’s parody of William Wordsworth’s ‘Upon Westminster Bridge’ and his prehistoric song in worship of the Earwig god, ‘Neanderthal Fragment’ (which must be in full to be read properly).
One of the strongest characteristics of this publication is that the texts make use of anything and everything: other poems, ancient myth, the 2012 Olympic games, kids’ games and cartoons (hence Pokémon), the Famous Five, hooliganism, the Terminator etc. At least one poem is going to strike a chord with anyone. They’re also smart. In parody, Simmers makes excellent use of form, and most of the poems play explicitly and skilfully with an issue or an idea. They certainly succeed in their aim to prove that verse which is lighter is not necessarily lesser. I was especially fond of the one ‘straight’ poem in the collection, ‘Ariadne and the Minotaur’. The re-telling is plain and simple and adds an unexpected note of sadness to an otherwise boisterous collection.
Light was a joy to review; I recommend it wholeheartedly.