“Lost Lands” Aly Stoneman (Crystal Clear Creators) – poetry review

Lost Lands Aly Stoneman book coverAly Stoneman is concerned with landscapes both in the actual countryside and the landscape of a poem on the page. “Mermaids” starts,

“I walked a blank white page
between scarred headland
and storm-line heaped with weed
and litter, stinking of the sea.”

A stanza which manages to move from intrigue, “blank white page/…scarred headland” to the more banal “heaped with weed/and litter, stinking of the sea”. The seaweed and stench were doubtless there but their presence is predictable and the stanza doesn’t offer a new way of sensing them or use them beyond observing them.

In “Wyld” there’s a countryside walk where the “we” of the poem are not identified and their relationship is not spelt out either so readers don’t know if they are friends or lovers. Perhaps the poet’s intention is that it doesn’t matter.

“We paddle and wash near Bigsweir Bridge;
canoeists greet us, swans observe us.
At Lower Hail after dark, outstretched

on a platform of flat stones, we seem to sail.
Bright stars are not police helicopters,
nor owl-calls the screeching brakes

of stolen cars. Satellites flare and dim.
Conifer trees are sharp black cut-outs
against constellations we cannot name.”

The poem ends with the walkers catching a bus and going their separate ways, “waving until you vanish in the heavy rain.” The walkers are urbanites enjoying the country and the contrasts between natural sounds and artificial city sounds. Look how passive it is, “canoeists greet us, swans observe us,” “we seem to sail,” the list of observations. It feels as if the reader is being kept at one remove, distanced from the action by the passive voice of the writing. This is a shame as the writing shows awareness of craft but appears to be searching for a subject it feels passionately enough about to ditch the passive voice in favour of an active one.

By

Other Crystal Clear Creators publications:

“Citizen Kaned” Andrew Mulletproof Graves

“Bleeds” Charles Lauder Jr

“Gopagilla” Roy Marshall

“Someone Else’s Photograph” Jessica Mayhew

“Without Makeup” Hannah Stevens

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One Response to ““Lost Lands” Aly Stoneman (Crystal Clear Creators) – poetry review”

  1. aly stoneman Says:

    Dear Emma,
    Thank you for taking the time to read my pamphlet ‘Lost Lands’. I’m interested in your review as it is the worst I have had to date (although there is still time!) and therefore offers a learning opportunity for me. Since you have critiqued my writing I hope you will mind my offering a criticism of my own. I feel your review lacks balance, as it is almost entirely focused on the negative aspects of two poems selected from a 28 page pamphlet. This is rare, as most reviewers tend to tackle both the stronger and weaker elements of a published work and I had no definite sense of your response to the pamphlet as a whole. Here is an example of what I would consider a more balanced review, albeit with questionable grammar:
    charleswhalley.co.uk/2013/03/02/review-in-under-the-radar-10-roy-marshalls-gopagilla-aly-stonemans-lost-lands-richie-mccafferys-spinning-plates-niall-campbells-after-the-creel-fleet/

    However, I agree that the poem Wyld uses passive language. I was seeking to convey the narrator’s passive interaction with the landscape and inability to salvage a failing relationship. Perhaps an additional problem might be that the poem ‘stretches over two pages without ever seeming to resolve itself into saying anything’ as Charles Whalley puts it. The problem is that I intended for the poem to meander along the journey as the river does, creating a more subtle sense of disconnect. I will certainly bear your comments in mind for the future. (By the way, I left room for the reader to decide if the pair were friends or lovers, it was clearly about the end of a relationship and I felt this did not need to be resolved any further.)

    A quick word on ‘Mermaids’, in the first stanza I am setting up an ‘expected’ scene (an evening walk on the beach) against which to introduce a fantastical element (mermaids), so I was aiming to create a contrast in the language I used. However, this could be a classic example of a poem I have read so many times that my eye slid over a line that could be better.

    Anyway, thank you again for your critique, I am always interested to hear how other people respond to my work and I can see that we share a passion for poetry. I’m sure we will have an interesting conversation if we ever meet.
    Kind regards
    Aly


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