Poetry review – POMES FLIXUS: Julie Hogg admires an enchanting quality in MW Bewick’s poems
Pomes Flixus is MW Bewick’s second collection of poetry, his first being Scarecrow, also from the Wivenhoe-based independent publishing house Dunlin Press. I eagerly awaited this volume having enjoyed Bewick’s beguiling debut; its attention to the sublime detail of populated and deserted places from soaring cityscapes to rolling countryside with childhood, pylons, rivers, ruderal and wastelands in-between.
Pomes Flixus continues this journey of poetic voice, providing seamless continuity which is sleek and satisfying. These poems are graceful and gracious, the poet’s tone ardently invites his reader to enter a pleasurable liminality to experience them, like waiting at a station platform or a longer train ride, as in ‘Fluxus:’
clammy in the hands with the drizzle and coffee, not what was expected and thoroughly unprepared, the bins overflowing, the taxis at rest and this, the encounter first and last, like the thought of us when young and coltish, the chance meet made antithetical, unleavened, said.
As the title of this poem suggests (and in accordance with the avant-garde Dadaesque art movement of the same name) these poems occasionally contemplate the surreal. A meta-text incorporating other artforms can also be found at www.mwbewick.com. Bewick collaborates with artist Ella Johnson who contributes the striking neon and monochrome cover illustration and design. The collection is a heteroglossia cornucopia, often including found phrases, pop and classical references, below-the line commentry, google translating and career-specific language. The title ‘Flixus’ denotes a creative hybrid lexis in keeping with the feather-light touch of flickering imagery in this poetry.
The book’s first section considers encounters. With each carefully weighted line, ‘Unsaid’ responds to – and intriguingly elaborates on – the call of ‘Fluxus:’
The filament trees begin to glow and it feels more important that we lock our doors and take all the calls now in case we become distracted or if the wind picks up and a signal is lost.
Throughout this book Bewick imagines, in true Burke style, the contagion of people’s passions with canny instinct and intuition. ‘In a Downbeat Afternoon, Wivenhoe’ narrates the ordinary and extraordinary everyday; and playfully imperfect rhymes are carefully crafted in ‘The Central Reservation:’
as if everything has its place in the immutable system, and witnessing the daily count of the central reservation as the miles add up – one fox, two deer, three badgers, fresh blood still glistening on the roadkill of the verges.
‘The Motorway Services’ invites us on an amiable and companiable road trip with the author:
You remember them, don’t you? The lorries flashing when the tail lights go clear. Distances count when at speed, you say…
Seven stanzas of vignette follow, with calculated space between each, for the reader to reminisce about all those generationally spanning personal, familial, professional, and topical journeys, I Spy and are we there yet?
We arrive, with delight, at the fruits of this collection’s title and they are as Cumbrian as the poet’s roots, ‘The Subtribe Malinae:’
the rough-skinned Egremont russet and bletted medlars left hanging late in the year, thoughts no sooner ripe than rotten, let’s just call them all apples, pears, or find them again in rosebuds, blossoming
Amelanchier, haws and pyracantha are described, deep in the natural world, and then the poem turns like a high-day and holiday peopled twirl into all the fun of the Crab Fair, traditional in this area bordering the Lake District.
‘Pommes Flixus’ metatext is an absorbing accompaniment which I prefer to refer to as an aside for closer reading, often revealing an inside world of overheard speech by the author’s astute ear. Inanimate objects are selected as a metaphor for feeling. ‘At the Private View’ was written whilst at an art fair:
It was cramped hours in transit sans delay Snowdrops, crocus, daffodils then tulips The events still best viewed in camouflage All the fag-ends collected for landfill The fire extinguisher’s lonely utility
‘Voices’ is a cacophony of a third section; sometimes with collected and curated found phrases from media – for instance, ‘Some Comments on Fred Frith’ – and sometimes inspired by archived footage of Josef Muench (e.g. ‘Snowflake over Sequoia’) or popular lyrics, as in ‘Super Modern Engagement:’
The iterations melt before a snowflake scroll and y’all sweating for Elon, fucking for Kanye all ballin’ for plimsolls and immorality.
‘An Anniversary’ offers no names and is a quiet poem of memory and landscape, rather like Shelley’s waste and solitary places, boundless and full of the soulful musings which I very much respect in Bewick’s work.
There’s a heightened musicality, a new soundtrack accompanying the final section of the collection, ‘Propositions’, which is full of waiting and surprise. The poet asks, ‘What Follows the Scherzo?’
The snow fell so heavily that afternoon before it fled for the woods, like tomorrow, And tell me then where the snow has gone, where I might catch it again, down the road, past all the clarity left in its wake.
‘The Heavens are Telling’ was composed whilst listening to radio; ‘Here’s That Rainy Day’ has a Wes Montgomery soundscape of jazz guitar; and ‘You Can Edit Your Responses After Submitting,’ has the skilful beat of internal rhyme. These are poems of possibility and resilience. ‘Once More, with Persistence:’ advises us
to rest a while, to breathe, and hear the wild sound of footsteps, a heartbeat, laughter.
‘A Wedding,’ the final poem, is a celebration from an Italian Summer, with promises and vows, which lifts the heart with ‘colours of tutti frutti and pink caprice.’
Pomes Flixus is an affirming, enchanting and enduring collection. Once again, I’m looking forward with anticipation to reading Bewick’s further works:
Can you hear the cantata rising through the agapanthus and rose, on the hillside heady with jasmine and pine?