Peter Ulric Kennedy examines Jeremy Page’s poetic O Level responses
Stepping Back – Resubmission for the Ordinary Level Examination in Psychogeography Jeremy Page The Frogmore Press ISBN 978-0-9570688-6-5 30 pp £5.00
This is a hugely rewarding collec-tion (with an intriguingly clever subtitle) of some eighteen poems, with a theme of the author re-turning to aspects of his earlier life. The opening poem ‘Mistaken identity’ has a feeling of mystery from the start:
One bright spring morning I woke to find I’d forgotten who I was, so I packed a bag and took the slow train to the coast.
Could the last two lines be an ho-mage to Don McLean? “And the three men I admire most / The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost /They caught the last train for the coast / The day the music died” … however, the poet proceeds to step back into a forgotten time of his youth, and you may think that this will evince a feeling of fa-miliarity in the reader – yes, I too have forgotten who and what I was when I was young. “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there”, wrote L P Hartley – but Page steps back to what had been his boyhood home, to find there various clues of his former existence; the psycho-geography begins to manifest itself.
The ensuing poems are written in a direct and appealingly straightforward language, and each of them moves back in time in one way or another. These are very atmospheric poems and I have read them with much pleasure and much recognition. In ‘As I see you’ we come to realise that “you” stands for “me when younger”; the “theoretical possibility / of an algorithm / for the distances / that time creates” allows the recall of days and place from long ago.
Page’s elegant free verse, marshalled into stanzas where appropriate, employs little in the way of poetic artifice, although in the poem ‘Chilling’ there appears a carefully placed caesura. It allows us to understand that the breeze can carry both the wail of police sirens and the wail of gulls at one and the same time.
So many poets (and good poets at that) rely on metaphor and simile in their writing, but Page’s di-rectness and clarity does away with that necessity; what you see in his poems is what you get. Still, there are many felicitous phrases in this work: “On November-coloured days / he felt the disenc-hantment / of the world …”; or again “Walking into a blaze of sunset / whose ribbons litter / a steely winter sky …”
And then there’s that final poem ‘Resubmission for the Ordinary Level Examination in Psychogeo-graphy’ which in form is more complex than any preceding it, but which remains both elegiac:
Walter … great uncle I never knew is marching to his death on the killing fields of France …
and full of quiet humour:
Julie London is crying a river over me (despite my hair, those flares)
Indeed, at the end of this amiable collection of real poetry I can truly say I have loved reading it. And it achieves top marks in the Ordinary Level Examination in Psychogeography.