Saturday, 2 February 2008

Knowing Courtesy

All together now

By Mark Cantrell

“ps/ Courtesy Orchis will have her revenge on..... ‘The first rule of any game, even before how do I play this game? is ‘know your opponent’’ – poet Courtesy Orchis.”

A postscript to a poem buried deep within a poetry collection is no doubt a strange way to begin a review of said poet’s work, but it proves to be apt advice not just for would-be games players, but for reviewers too. For surely, it’s equally apt to note that ‘ye who would delve into a poet’s work might do well to ponder – “who is the poet?”

Okay, so who is the poet, Courtesy Orchis? The glib answer is the author of this collection, simply entitled The Collection. Within its pages can be found an amalgamation of the author's previous chapbooks published between 1997 and 2007 – but here brought together in one hardback edition.

For a more detailed answer, however, well the poetry knows and the poetry tells, but its manner is cryptic, its meaning veiled, as its author plays with the reader’s sight and perception. So the answers come in enigmatic fashion, through lengths of prose, poetry and short stories, together with snapshots of sentences poised between the moments of the page, to tell scenes and vignettes of life lived and endured.

There is the essence in these pages of life lived on the edge of ordinary perception; of a soul-cry calling out to the humans lost in the wilderness that is a banal society. There is suicide and pain, loss and love, and angsted (sic) questions, self-doubt and recriminations. Yet it steers a course away from the morbid rocks. The works prove uplifting; thoughtful streams of consciousness that fill one’s emotional sails. Orchis, here, is no siren wailing us onwards to shipwrecked despair.

Her poetry begs... nay demands thought and reflection, it provokes an essential questioning, the perpetual sense that a revelation, if not an epiphany is just there on the tip of the tongue. There is an almost surreal quality to much of the material presented, especially in the later selections, when she presents what can be best described as verbal collages. To say surreal, however, belies the easy lucidity present on the pages; there is meaning and there is purpose and it defies us to ponder what remains unsaid.

No easy reading these collages, but the effort is worth it; dense bodies of prose or poetry is surrounded by cut and pasted snippets. Short poems, scribbled observations, lines of text like a singular moment of thought frozen on the page. To read them, the book must turn this way and that. These are dense, crowded pages, begging an almost claustrophobic response as one trapped in a maelstrom crowd. Some might find that off-putting, but let the mind unwind, the eye wander free and the crowds disperse to leave space to ponder the montage at ease. This is no easy read, but the reading is easy for those capable of being undaunted.

So what is the answer to the question that began our inquiry? Well, the poetry still knows, as does the poet, but in the end it is neither the one nor the other's role to provide the answers, but to provoke the reader to find their own answers to their own questions. The Collection provokes that so well, that it might be wise to suggest – here is a vessel of poetry that reads its reader.

The Collection

By Courtesy Orchis

ISBN: 978-1-905006-53-3

Hardback, 116 pages

Price: £10

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Category: REVIEW



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