“Weekend’s end” by Tim Wright reviewed by Chris Brown
by Tim Wright
Reviewed by CHRIS BROWN
Late last year I received in the mail a copy of Tim Wright’s poetry chapbook, Weekend’s end. I’d been in occasional correspondence with Wright for a few years and but for this, might never have seen (or reviewed) the book, which was made by the author and his Melbourne peers and never intended for commercial release.
While the roughed-up cardboard cover, stenciled with a gold stroke at a forward lean (and without names or titles) marks the venture as non-commercial, Wright hasn’t made this book writing against conventional (commercial) book design and production, but outside of it, the effect of which is to give precedence to the poetics of the cover, above any intended political function.
The inside cover introduces the title, Weekend’s end, inviting questions as to the relationship between the title and the single graphic feature, a gold line, almost a forward slash, of the cover. Weekend’s end, might suggest, for example, a division between work and recreation, a space between opposing contexts – the forward slash suggesting an either/or of constructed time. I doubt that this was Wright’s intention, though it does foreshadow the questions of unity, continuity, and disjunction that come to characterize the poems of the collection. More relevantly perhaps, the title directs us quite literally to the ‘end’ element of ‘weekend’, a gesture closer to Wright’s interests I believe, for Wright’s poems gather energy around the elemental and particulate aspects of their composition; a point more observable as the book proceeds and grammatical continuities of the earlier imagery give way to the abstracted continuity of the closing poem, “course”.
Weekend’s end asks questions of the way a poem might negotiate the natural discontinuities of daily life and thought, as is made clear in the first poem of the book, “notes.”
a feathered sky
The widening line-break suggests the diminishing connection between successive lines. The last two lines, “communist desire as a collective desire for collectitivity…, quote jodi dean and have nothing and perhaps everything to do with the five lines I quote above; they are related in their un-relatedness, as notes, which are not to be taken here as “just notes” but poetry, the first thought.
If “notes”, for its raw form, resembles a found poem, “accidental collage with Laurie Duggan and word processor”, works in a similar way. Procedures of early writing or drafting are given primacy; the means are here the end. The first three lines read:
Light spills through a gutter a certain
moment of tHe skirts the base of affirmative discourse on which
resemblance calmly reposeshe day, then…
This poem isn’t without its quotidian treats, as the first line expresses, but what’s important is the question of the accidental itself. This poem embodies the aleatory, the poem is its actual and accidental procedure. Wright is writing a ph.d on Duggan so it’s no great accident that this intersection occurs, nor that the poem itself speaks through its chance arrangement to the relation of the critical to the poetic.
These two poems are as informal as the collection gets. From here on each piece seems a more measured synthesis of its often shifting imagery. Wright appears constantly to be testing language against itself, seeking and sounding out, finally intuited combinations of language, that hold, despite an apparent elemental disparity.
The passage here,
rose to the surface to
be doted on patted it’s what
we expect they expected
and came here for corner
ing glasses of coopers
extra stout staring
at it won’t do
you any favours the gin scent
still motes the catwalk
from “ugh boat”, left me asking where does one begin to quote and where end? A question itself that attests to the flow Wright achieves through and against the varied elements of the poem-compound. It’s not so much the lack of punctuation (the reader can look after that?) but more the repetition and enjambment, as well as an adept aural sense, that create a sense of movement, which is at once reflective and forward facing. It’s the kind of poem that makes it churlish to congratulate the single line or isolated thought, but there are bursts of semantic delight, as well as humour: “…glasses of…extra stout staring/at it won’t do/you any favours the gin scent…”. Whose shout was it? but as is common of Wright’s poetry, something else is at work here, and in the reflexive sense, I imagine the poet to be asking questions about making the work happen (“staring at it won’t do”. Fittingly then Wright makes his own book to accommodate the poems of his making.
“west end pastoral”, probably my favourite, is a gem; it’s more contextualized than anything else in the collection; though to which west end does Wright refer? I found myself thinking Brisbane (pastoral here ironized); or Newcastle? Wright is originally from Western Australia. Whatever the case, a strong social and political sense comes through here in a poem that quietly approaches the disposability common to contemporary suburban culture. This is the poem in full:
the couch and the dog
are out the front with the D-lock
docked like broken ferries
someone left their porch out overnight
chewing over a block of wood
in a blanket of cut grass
fumigating the bus stop café.
Questions of economy and restraint assert themselves in Wright’s poems. In a review of the recent outcrop anthology for cordite, James Stuart called Wright’s poems “reticent” but didn’t go on to give any examples to clarify the point. Certainly, there are few pronouns in Wright’s work; “I” barely rates a mention, though at the same time, the point of view’s often implied, at times, in the most apt manner: “this music is meant to/permeate certain emotions” (“weekend’s end”). Why not subtract the first person singular from such an equation?
Wright’s varied imagery gives space and light to the daily life recorded in his poems. “a camera”, for example, questions a framed, subjective reality, but in opening itself to a range of reference, undermines its own expression of a point of view characterized by limitation:
on a sand dune
the limited selection
admitted by a window
things have changed
Each of the poems collected here present a vitalized discourse on the making of a poem, its roots and final composition. Like his earlier REDACTIONS (I-XII), 2011, Tim Wright’s Weekend’s end works brightly out from its own spirited objectives and resolve, establishing itself as a firm example of the wealth on offer in the gift economy of d.i.y publishing. Put it on your reading list, if you can find it.
CHRIS BROWN lives in Newcastle. His poems have appeared in Southerly, The Age, Overland and cordite and were recently anthologized in Kit Kelen and Jean Kent’s anthology of Hunter writing, A Slow Combusting Hymn. He is writing a book of poems: “hotel universo”.