Only the Flame Remains by Adam Horovitz, Review #12

-Reviewed by Claire Trévien-

I first read Adam Horovitz’s Only the Flame Remains while on a mini-bus, surrounded by my boisterous co-workers, on our way to our office Christmas party yesterday (this is also why this review is a bit later than usual). Now, if a pamphlet can hold your attention in those circumstances, one hand cradling a plastic cup full of prosecco, then you know it’s a good one.

I have to confess I’m not familiar with Laurie Lee’s work – these poems were written to celebrate the centenary of his birth – but that’s not necessary to enjoying the pamphlet. If anything, it makes me excited to revisit them at a later date and see how acquired knowledge could enhance the reading.

Take for instance the poem ‘Dear Laurie’, where the narrator invites the valley (which looks a bit like Laurie Lee) in ‘for a pint of Uley’ – a premise that’s already interesting regardless of who Lee is. There’s of course the joy at imagining a valley hoisting branches into a blazer and stuffing itself into a pub – but the clincher for me is the ending, which is casually stunning:

it speaks, the words
spill out as seeds
and make a sudden forest
of the floor.

The centenary of Lee’s birth is an event in itself in the pamphlet, there’s ‘At the Centenary Cider Festival’ featuring a passionate cider-infused encounter, or ‘The Tour Stops at Laurie’s Grave’, addressed to Lee’s daughter, but the strongest poem for me feels only tangentially related.

‘Waiting for the Flame’ is a poem about clearing out the boxes and burning them, a subject seen enough as to be cliché, but which is handled deftly enough to avoid its pitfalls. The first stanza in particular is worth quoting:

This is where people are buried;
in rooms made dark by paper
which bursts like frozen lightning from boxes
leant against the walls, the blackened beams.

In short, I recommend this pamphlet, whether you’re a fan of Laurie Lee’s work or not, if you want poetry that will work on you when drunk and sober….

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!