Sunday at the Skin Launderette, By Kathryn Simmonds
Sunday 31 August 2008
Rather than giving in to dolefulness — the default mode of poetry past and present — Kathryn Simmonds opts for ebullience and optimism. Borrowing from Ian Dury, she lists "Reasons to Be Cheerful" in a piece entitled "Against Melancholy". Her poems are engaging, witty ideas skilfully executed in a range of forms and she has a good eye, seeing varnished floorboards split water into glassy baubles, or noticing that taxi drivers' right arms are browner than their left.
That said, much of Sunday at the Skin Launderette will be familiar to readers of contemporary verse. Poems utilising clichés, rifling the contents of a handbag, describing a concert of experimental music or examining the items in a charity shop recall work by Paul Muldoon, Maura Dooley, Christopher Reid and Charles Boyle; and the determined energy of the writing, its frequent use of the imperative, has about it something of Carol Ann Duffy and Simon Armitage.
Simmonds incorporates life's bits and bobs into her poetry: changing mats, Yellow Pages, a jumbo marker. But what raises her book above the average — it has been shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection — is a desire to bring the spiritual into the quotidian. Christ (renamed Dave) strolls down the King's Road in low-slung jeans and angels make several appearances. This casts some shadows into the writing. Simmonds might, in future, venture further into the darkness.
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