D. Herrle rave-views Milner Place's Caminante
The following text is derived from a rather informal reaction I jotted after reading Caminante. I rendered it more coherent for review's sake.
Caminante - by Milner Place
published by Wrecking Ball Press 2003
is a sublime adventure, a devious path, a jokester, reverently
irreverent, and haunted by the briny mer that grinds
"granite into sand".
book moves from bidding the traveler heed that the trip makes the road
(rather than the road making the trip) and then a spooky piece about the
doomed, frozen 1845 voyage of the Terror and Erebus (in
search of the Northwest Passage) --- to the maturation of a bat and its
virgin voyage from her mother's warm care.
From seemingly effortless sketches about almost tangible seafolk (playthings of the capricious Davy Jones' Locker's whims, all) to the sky-obscuring drear of No. 18 Taylor Street, Milner flexes his subjective dexterity. The reader may learn that nothing is to be surprising if mentioned; times and places and situations are all happening NOW, ghosts and the quick co-exist in a poetic jubilee or funeral shuffle.
Loot-stealin' Prometheus, musin' about reincarnated Euripides and Joan of Arc, slight references to Mayan blood ritual, conquistadors, and a brief glimpse of abandoned Alicia of Jocotepec, mating elephant seals, dinosaur blood in the soil, an Egyptian tomb, etc.
I dig how the wind of the book always
brings us back to sea-sprayed sails and the outliving presence of
indifferent water (probably owing to Milner's off-land background). I love
the out-of-the-blue images sprouted sometimes seemingly for
"don't-think-of-a-pink-elephant"'s sake: an evocative trick on
the mind's eye: "heart in marble", "smile like a dipping
gull", "the blind guitarist", "sleeping hips",
"jig-sawn streets", "an hour-long kiss", "a
drunken shepherd on a spree", "smelled of murder and
I'm both a fan and an indulger in rich
imagery and verbized nouns and nounized verbs and adjectived adverbs and
adverbial adjectives. Language is like a Rubik's Cube with millions of
combinations. Poets who aren't shy of sensuality and
mixed/mangled/shattered/glued-together metaphors and such are to be
My fondest piece is "Ice Flow"
(the piece about the doomed 1845 Arctic voyage previously mentioned).
The odd narrator is one of the crew whose corpse is disinterred
and studied and restored to his resting place, recalling his fellows and
the ordeal, complaining about "the awfulness of life" and relieved
as the modern folks return him to his coffin and shut the lid.
This is a second death, in a sense.
Reluctant to compare, I am slightly reminded of Edgar Lee
Masters' Spoon River Anthology.
The somewhat eerie yet liberating tone of that piece seems to drift
through the book. A clip:
"Another phantom of a dream stands out.
I heard a knocking on the door, rasp
of a jemmy on the coffin lid; a flood
of light that burst my head, a voice
that blew my temples wide, more voices
and a tapping on my chest.
As if dropped
out of a womb I felt a stirring..."
A warning: this is a work demanding some
work. Though nimble and far
from plodding, Milner's usual pieces can't be taken like Asprin. One must take time to indulge.
As one who is easily repelled by drawn-out, long-winded poetry, I
can testify to Caminante's
exception. This is due to
clever story-telling, rather than undirected poetizing.
Caminante is a work to be reread, of course. And it's game for occasional dips and tastes and sharing one or two pieces with a friend from time to time. In other words, the book isn't a singular experience. It's mica-layered and delightful and disturbing.
Milner Place lives in Huddersfield, England. His 7th poetry collection, Caminante, is his most recent work - released by Wrecking Ball Press (www.wreckingballpress.com). He has also written The City of Flowers, Piltdown Man and Batwoman, In A Rare Time of Rain, etc.
Non-UK folk can buy the book
directly from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
for a quotation in any currency.
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