“Confer” Ahren Warner (Bloodaxe) – poetry review

Ahren Warner Confer poetry book cover Ahren Warner’s studies in philosophy and literature dominate but don’t overwhelm the poems. They are cerebral, rather than emotional, and observational in tone, often incorporating philosophical musings. Although there is a tendency to use French, Italian or Greek words, this is not done with the intention of excluding readers but rather a search for the best word. Occasional poems use gaps to make lines the same length giving the poem a regular, rectangular shape with the gaps replacing punctuation so the poem is still readable. Ahren Warner uses allusions too, most obviously in “Carolina” linking various songs with “Carolina” in the title which the exception of one which still has strong links to the state.

Some of the observations are playful, for example from “Hangin’ Round” in a middle England city,

“its Starbucks won like a medal
of cosmopolitan rank;
its battered,
mock-Louisiana-style ‘deli’

where, incidentally, I remembered sipping coffee
with a girl who loved ‘drinking coffee’
more than coffee
half a decade ago, and who, as I recall,

‘hated the immigrants,’ but smelt of truffles
and ambergris
and who, so I’ve heard,
spends her time, these days, on the rush-hour train
to a smaller small town, where she’s training to be
an accountant”

I find the authorial intrusions, “as I recall” (so closed to “I remembered”) and “so I’ve heard”, intrusive rather than informative. But like the image of the small town woman travelling to a smaller town to work in a narrow profession as a metaphor for a narrowing mind.

In “Sonetto” the poem’s narrator wakes up next to a woman (the gaps are intended to give the lines and even length so the poem looks rectangular, not easy to replicate in a blog),

“And let’s not pretend:  last night my eyes veered
to the plunge          of that                 girl’s jumper
where wool-mix met                 peach-skin breasts
and my pheromones             stamped out a samba.

Still in this fresh hour                  I lap your scent
and know                    such glances are simulacra.”

Like the coffee-drinking, trainee accountant, the narrator comes across as someone who likes the idea of being in love, but doesn’t actually like working at a relationship.

“Confer” is a slow burn, it won’t grip immediately, but does reward re-reading.

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