It is summer time and the Two Rivers Press web editor is digging around to find stories that somehow did not get posted in a timely fashion. Amongst the treasures found, a wonderful review in The Guardian, exactly one year ago, of Ian House’s poem “Look-out”.
For now the city’s at peace. The sniper’s rifle
is upright between his knees, his hands
are soothed by the barrel and he’s posted
in an armchair at a crossroads
among dangling balconies, torn-off dresses,
jagged whisky bottles, sandbags, dolls
and listens to vanished disco tunes.
Coffee is a memory he tastes and smells.
He knows, he knows, the cafes will re-fill
with statesmen, poets, astronomers, good-time girls;
there will be public worship, evening strolls,
bookshops, bakeries, banana splits
and table scraps that can be left for dogs.
Here is just a bit of Carol Rumens’ review:
“The Arts of Peace, writes Adam Piette in the introduction, turns from “anniversary fuelled flag-waving and fake tearfulness towards a measured and felt solidarity with those who have suffered, as well as a quiet celebration of the peacetime that is so easily lost, so quickly taken for granted, so undervalued.” House finds symbols of that easily undervalued peacetime in a moment of ceasefire, abstracted from any specific war or battle, but not thereby neutralised. Look-out seems both local and universal.
We’re all familiar, if only at second hand, with the unreal-seeming juxtapositions of war. The poem begins, as a news report might, with a bizarre but almost comic combination: a sniper, who appears to be, or perhaps ought to be, on “Look out”, is actually relaxing “in an armchair at a crossroads”. The tenuousness of possession and occupation is cunningly underlined. Detritus is scattered around; in fact, the armchair is part of it. The sniper himself hasn’t laid down his arms, though the rifle ledged “upright between his knees” is a reassurance, a kind of phallic comforter. Is his dreamy calm justified by the situation? The odd boldness of his presence in such a public place might suggest he’s traumatised or high – that somehow he has gone “over the edge” into his private memories of normality. The “vanished disco tunes” he listens to must be in his own head, like the memory of the taste and smell of coffee. How soon will his dream be shattered?…” – from “Poem of the week: Look-out by Ian House” by Carol Rumens (The Guardian, Monday 11 August 2014 14.26 BST)
The whole review in The Guardian is here and well worth reading.