Donut Press, 2007 - £5.00
The Observations of Aleksandr Svetlov arrived through my letterbox one morning as I was setting off to catch a train. Like other publications from Donut, it’s slickly designed and a neat size to slip into pocket or bag. It was not inappropriate that I should read it en route to Dundee, where Bryce herself held the post of Creative Writing Fellow not all that long ago. Dundee’s Caird Hall is said to bear a passing resemblance to Moscow’s architecture, which perhaps gave her the idea for this intriguing small collection. I zipped through it on the train and arrived at my destination wanting to hear lots more from Aleksandr Svetlov.
An elderly widower, Aleksandr lives in a town or city which might be Moscow, or near Moscow. In the most lyrical poems he speaks directly to his late wife. My favourite is probably ‘The Ticket Boy’, which concludes:
.... my thoughts will hold your soul
just clear of the roaring fires of time,
as they hold the soul of the ticket boy
in his dirty clothes, kicking and cursing.
A domestic clock is the wife-substitute with whom Aleksandr has an edgy relationship, and time ticks away through all the poems. We meet his friend and contemporary Konstantin, and hear about neighbours and family, gaining from 19 short poems a real sense of Aleksandr’s life and philosophy. Bryce writes with plenty of wry humour and moves along with pace to memorable lines in poem after poem. In ‘On The Lasting Need For Companionship’
... Konstantin is here in the flesh,
like the arms of a lifeguard
hugging my chest, to save me
from the last stage of babbling to myself....
I hope there are more of Aleksandr Svetlov’s observations still to come.
The Common Reader says of The Observations of Aleksandr Svetlov
I found this a very entertaining read. Many of the poems like ‘Even Now’, ‘An Old Woman’ and ‘The Clock II’ brought tears to my eyes. They were honest, touching and sad. Then I found a poem called ‘Trick Question’ and thought it was hilarious.
‘How are you?, was the greeting he put to me.
Not ‘Lovely day’, or ‘Salutations’,
not even a simple ‘Hallo’.
But ‘How are you?’
I have a dear friend who is constantly bothered when shopping for clothes by assistants who enquire ‘Are you alright?’ as if clothes shopping might be dangerous in some way or too tiring for her. Her response is always snippy ‘As far as I’m aware. Yes I am.’ Perhaps others read this poem and felt quite sad. I don’t know if proper reviewers ever comment on poems based on personal experience. I apologise if I have offended any one but the poem works on two levels for me. It is sad but also very funny.