-Reviewed by Diane Tingley–
Kaffeeklatsch is a new literary journal that the three strong editorial team hope to reproduce bi-annually. The title means gossip over coffee cups, and yes, the reading experience has that re-awakening quality that good poetry (and good coffee) does have. The energy of youth and the gravitas of experience were perfectly blended by the expert editors, whose witty editorial is also a delight to read. With such a delicious line up to choose from, selecting a few favourites is therefore difficult and desperately subjective.
The opening image in Tom Warner’s ‘Jelly fish’ asks that we consider “things before Latin names” perhaps before their names hardened around them. Dactylic rhythms in the first line send waves of pre-1066 assonance and alliteration, driving the narrative and explaining both the sea’s wealth, and the sea’s ability to adapt and to endure. The loss of the sea to a single jelly fish voices the cruel power of nature through imagery exacted by semantic rhyming: “their strings rooting back to the sea”.
Rooting chimes with the double o sound in the last two lines in the second and final three line stanza, which in dialogue with the first, places our sea treasure against a deadly modern backdrop, with a series of brilliantly accurate, but unsettling, images: “B movie mother ships / organs in formaldehyde / mushroom cloud”. The first line of this stanza picks up the i sound of the first line of the poem, but instead of being on the beach, the jellyfish is now in an aquarium being intellectualised “light as ideas.” The omnipresent ebb and flow of the sea is in the two nippy stanzas tiding in and out on the page. We are shown a lack of understanding of the true nature of these wonderful, instinctive creatures and by extension, the emptiness of modern existence.
Martin Halsall’s ‘Postcard from Apple Trees’ is another wonderful poem. It is a dream catcher of a poem snagging the ephemeral in respectfully symmetrical three line stanzas. The interlacing rhymes structure a narrative composed of subtle vowel rhymes. Based around a tree, the story is a startling reminder of mortality, summed up in the last line: “discovering she is older.” Still the tree endures to carry the poem to us.
George Szirtes’s ‘Cryogenic: The Big Freeze’ is a stunning dance in tetrameter on the quest for immortal life, thawing the apocalyptic idea of being frozen with human warmth. The poet immediately takes the side of humanity, with the collective: “few of us look to Tithonus as a model” (the Greek figure granted immortality without eternal youth and thus consigned to an eternity of aching bones). The first stanzas thread language through a listening loop, and bend to the hilarious idea people might actually want to be frozen in order to “be micro-waved back into life much later”. As the poem progresses, the power of language to transform takes a bigger place, playing with the alienating modes of communication in modern life. The poet, in dialogue, asks us: “Are words a working model of the universe?”
The refrain of “OK” de-thaws the icy exactness of descriptions of faithlessness “the form does what it can/ it is only later we begin to freeze” This goes on throughout the seven stanzas, peaking in another voice in the sixth: “A man asks: touch me there, just below the heart.” Goes on “For now: life. For now: everything is OK”. The sense of the poem is condensed in the final stanza of three lines “it’s language that survives. O K spells OK.” So we emerge more aware of who is standing beside us, blinking into the light.
There is not enough space to discuss all of the poems in this substantial publication; each is refreshing and energising in its way – but maybe that is ok: perhaps we should each go out and buy a copy of this publication. I know I’ll be subscribing and would love to buy the editors the beverage of their choice, this gossip over coffee cups has been great.