Clinic II

-Reviewed by Rory O’Sullivan-

In Clinic’s own words, this – their second anthology – is a “physical embodiment” of their raison d’être – an artistic collaboration of art, music and poetry.

On the face of it, you might be forgiven for thinking that this is a collection that deals purely with poetry, but art is granted equal importance here. Music, meanwhile, may not be evident at the surface, but at the level of performance this collection very much deals with the ‘live’ dimension of artistic expression.

And if it’s a quirky, obscure – even trippy – manifestation of the arts you’re after, then you can do a lot worse than getting lost in their latest offering. Leafing between the charmingly obscure etchings, paintings and squiggles and the absorbing pages of verse, it’s as if Dr Seuss’s illustrators have teamed up with the pretenders to the poetic crown.

This eclectic miscellany of visual and verbal art has something for everyone. But unfortunately the concept of ‘everyone’ is not something that this anthology can acquaint because a rather stingy 500-edition print-run has been imposed.

Still, that kind of adds to the charm of being able to curl up with a copy if you’re lucky enough to come across one.

A total of 28 poets and 21 artists feature over the course of this 100-odd-page compendium of artistic celebration. Many of the contributors are grouped in the ‘emerging’ bracket – as the short bios at the end of the anthology suggest – and it is delightful to see space afforded for genuine upcoming talent while lining them up alongside more established players of the field.

Clinic’s four co-founding members provide strong contributions:

Rachael Allen (The Porpoise and An expected future event), Andrew Parkes (the previously-published Juror#10 and the beautiful yet sobering Cockermouth), Sam Buchan-Watts (Airport Poem and Landing) and Sean Roy Parker (with an intriguing photo-art piece) tow the party line of a vibrant, slightly-larger-than-pocket-size showcasing of modern art and poetry.

Much of the visual art is of an acquired taste. If modern art isn’t really your ‘thing’, I can only encourage you to give this a go. Few will deny their agreeable punctuation between each poet’s handful of contributions, providing timely pauses to consider their surreal – even downright odd – place within the work as a whole.

Some of the poems require a fair bit of attention and ‘tapping-in’ to the poet’s mind. A good few re-reads are required, which is no bad thing. Imagery is at times rather obscure and keeping track of it can provide a challenge, while the subject matter far-reaching from one poem to the next.

But to intellectualise this anthology would be to miss the point somewhat. The poems aren’t there to be carved up and examined at close-quarters. Yes, the poetics (in the academic sense) are of a decent to high standard, but Clinic II is trying to achieve something far simpler than that.

For example, I implore you to read some of these poems aloud – alone, or to friends. They are crying out to be performed – sung, even. It is poetry ripe for the stage as much as it is for the coffee table. It is no coincidence that the wonderful people at Clinic place so much emphasis on the ‘here-and-now’ element of creative expression. And this anthology is a heart-warming manifestation of that.