Rodney Wood’s new chapbook collection explores the potential of an unusual verse form
Rodney Wood appears to be the inventor of the verse form which he employs exclusively in this well-produced little pamphlet. It can be specified as follows where A, B and C each denote a phrase or sentence
A B C A C B
For readers who are not so comfortable with algebra, here is how the formula works out in the first stanza of ‘About Love’
love is at your side love is only a heartbeat away love is a song & love is a drug love is at your side love is a song & love is a drug love is only a heartbeat away
The other rule is that each poem in the book consists of three stanzas each using the afore-mentioned form.
This form can be quite an effective one – repetitions and echoes, after all, have long been a poetic device. Indeed, the editor of London Grip New Poetry has published several examples of Wood’s work in the last few years. When the components are well-chosen then the resulting poem has a haunting and meditative feel. With the best examples, a few re-readings will sometimes enable the reader to draw out a deeper meaning or resonance from the sparse and enigmatic phrases.
But it might be a risk for a poet to put all his eggs in one basket and trust himself to generate enough interesting instances of A, B and C to keep the reader’s interest over thirty-odd poems (which implies almost 100 repeats of the basic pattern and hence nearly 300 component phrases that will bear repetition ).
Perhaps it is in order to inject more variety that Wood sometimes borrows his ingredients from elsewhere. Thus ‘About Love’, already quoted, draws its words from songs by Amy Winehouse, Bryan Ferry, George Shearing and several others. Another is entitled ‘Beginning With a Phrase by Umberto Saba’; and two more pieces indicate that they are after works by Rilke and Goethe (but there is no note to give the reader more information).
When Wood is relying entirely on his own imagination the result is often a love poem. Surprisingly enough, the form does seem to lend itself rather well to tender declarations of affection:
a terrible love chokes me & I’ve never felt like this I open my eyes I repeat myself a terrible love chokes me I open my eyes I repeat myself & I’ve never felt like this.
On occasions, the love poems involve the act of writing poetry
because all I think about is you as soon as the pen touches the paper I sit & can’t think what to write because all I think about is you I sit & can’t think what to write as soon as the pen touches the paper.
And sometimes the thought of writing poetry triggers Wood’s fondness for the absurd:
use a moleskin notebook & visconti pen keep a daily journal & a candle burning wear a fez an item of corduroy use a moleskin notebook & visconti pen wear a fez an item of corduroy keep a daily journal & a candle burning.
Dante Called You Beatrice is an entertaining little book that delivers more than its small size might lead one to expect. It will be interesting however to see if Rodney Wood broadens his range in his future collections.