The End of the Sky by Ian Harker, Review #11

-Reviewed by Claire Trévien-

I tested out the poetic Tripadvisor form of reviewing in a Poetry School workshop last year, leading to a collaborative review which you can read here.

To spice things up a bit I thought I’d use it for this review too.


Appearance ****

Templar pamphlets sure are good looking, there’s no doubt about that. They feel satisfying to hold. It’s nice to see a flap on a pocket-sized paperback. I know a publisher I used to work for had trouble finding a printer for French flaps on paperbacks!

The cover image of The End of the Sky, Paul Klee’s 1922 ‘Group of birds shackled to a wire shackled to a hand crank’ is intriguing, with stick-figure birds on a wire contraption. It promises slightly out of kilt content, maybe with issues of control…

Loses a star for accessibility though. The inside flaps are quite hard to read though, with a black background and not quite pale-enough to be readable without daylight/a S.A.D lamp. That’s a fault in the design really…

Living up to its statement ****
Unsettlement factor ****

The blurb promises a rollicking ride with poems that ‘reveal miracles in many guises wherever they take us’. This is definitely the case, with a steady stream of jocular, upbeat poems. Fortunately, that’s not all there is, ‘Etaion Shrdlu’ and ‘Urban Legend: Astronauts’ in particular, are unsettling in moving or interesting ways.

The former takes its title from a nonsensical error that could occur in print produced in hot type. It doesn’t fall into the stereotypes of ‘poems about printing’, and ends with a bit of nifty menace:

Every kern’ll
turn against you,
your black words
and all they ever meant.

There’s also ‘Urban Legend: Astronauts’, which brings us the sweetly observed moment of the astronaut confronted to ‘a solid wall of starshine’ who feels

like you felt learning to swim
when your mom took her arm away

One of the stand-out poems in the pamphlet for sure.

Entertainment Factor ****
Originality **

The End of the Sky is ambitious in the way that some of the poems reach for a sort of universality by listing connected-yet-not quite images:

but that night
from the top deck of the number 42
the fake corpse surrounded by cameramen
smoking and drinking instant coffee
looked like the boot prints and litter
and scrap metal people leave in lay-bys
and on the north face of Everest
and the light side of the moon

The subjects are original for sure, and how can anyone not enjoy the title ‘A Poem in Which TS Eliot Disguises Himself as an Ocean Liner’, which comes with all sorts of intriguing lines, such as

he was a floating city slotted
into a wide-eyed harbour

The poems tend to be narrative or anecdote-driven, rescued by flamboyant images or premises.

I could do without the Paris poems also (#petpeeve).

Value for money *****

High quality printing, as mentioned above. Flap books don’t tend to be cheap to print.

26 poems for £5 works out at 0.19 pence per poem, which is frankly, a steal.

Average score: 4/5

This December, I have given myself the task of reviewing one pamphlet a day to raise money for next year’s Saboteur Awards. You can help by donating, or sharing the link using the hashtag #pamphletparty. I am not sure how this month is going to go, some pamphlets will be easier than others. I have given myself the aim of writing at least 300 words for each, a lower word-count than the usual reviews on Sabotage, in the hopes of making it more manageable! Here’s a link to the previously published reviews in this project!