Poetry CD, Lulu, 2007 - Download $6.81, Mail Order $12.70 + $5.02 postage
I’m never exactly sure where the divide lies between performance poetry and the type you read in slim volumes, nor whether it’s that important. It’s fair to say, though, that out-and-out performance poets usually face a problem in translating the energy of their act onto the page. So, an audio CD might seem the ideal solution. But I’m not so sure…
You see, Frank Burton doesn’t seem to have quite decided what he’s doing. At times, the CD sounds like a run-through of a live set, and at such times his delivery is strongly reminiscent of John Hegley. Now I’m a fan of Hegley, but his style is inextricably linked to the unique persona he adopts in his poems. Here, Burton’s appropriation of it sounds too much like affectation, and also undersells some of the subtleties of his poems, tending to hammer home the points being made.
The other side of the coin is that, at his best, Burton does hit the spot, often when he’s using a rather more straight delivery. Trouble was that at such times (and I did all my listening to the CD in the car), I wanted a paper copy of the poems, to enjoy them again at my leisure. An accompanying booklet, however cheaply produced, would seem to be a must.
What of the poems themselves? Well, the humour is well balanced with more serious concerns, and there’s no denying that Burton gives a very individual slant on the everyday, although at times the surrealism strains for effect a bit too much. I suspect I’d enjoy them heard live, though, which is probably the point.
One other thing. The CD is produced by www.lulu.com, who make self-publishing on demand a reality. For some reason it is priced in dollars on the site at present, although Lulu do have the option to price in UK £ or Euros. I’d already come across Lulu as publishers of the excellent new poetry journal Mimesis (www.mimesispoetry.com ), and now this. See also George Simmers’ review of the Michael Gause chapbook in Sphinx 6, where he too evaluates the Lulu operation. Keep an eye on them—they look like offering poets a major new opportunity.
For more about the Frank Burton, www.frankburton.co.uk