BBC Books £7.99
The Works, By Pam Ayres
Sunday 21 February 2010
Pam Ayres' stated aim has always been to write "something with which the audience would identify", which tells us two things. First, these poems were never meant to be written down, but to be performed – and they do work better when one imagines Ayres reading them out. Second, that Ayres doesn't want to challenge her audience, or make them think again. She doesn't want to defamiliarise existence, but to familiarise it.
Most of the poems in this career-spanning anthology embody sentiments with which it is impossible to disagree. Would anyone ever think "Thank goodness I didn't look after my teeth"? Who wouldn't feel sorry for a battery hen?
Ayres does have some talent as a versifier. Some of her poems, such as "Sling Another Chair Leg on the Fire, Mother" or "Heaps of Stuff", read like AA Milne poems for grown-ups, though the scansion is not quite as perfect. And some, such as "Do You Think Bruce Springsteen Would Fancy Me?" are appealingly humorous, in a gentle way. But these were not really written for the page, and seeing them in cold print highlights their slightness. If you like Pam Ayres, get the audio book.
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