Poetry review – TYPICITY: D Ferrara admires the variety of tones in Colin Pink’s second collection
Without a doubt, Colin Pink is well-read and intelligent. That in itself would not be a reason to pick up his latest book of poetry, Typicity. But Pink is also a perceptive observer, sensitive to image and rhythm, drawing from a wide range of sources to express himself. Which is not to say that his work is stuffy or inaccessible. Quite the opposite. His poetry is infused with wit, humour, and a sharp sense of the present. His mastery of music, art, and words shone in the charming first collection Acrobats of Sound (Poetry Salzburg 2016). He is back with an even stronger collection in Typicity. His breadth of subject is remarkable, as is his depth, and his panache is undeniable.
Like his pastiche of Hamlet’s query, gentle longing, and good-natured snark in “Hopefully to Dwell.” He plays with the origins of the word “dwell,” sampling youthful wanderlust, and mature stability, ending with a wink.
The present sense of “dwell” dates from the mid-thirteenth century, so it’s been around, sticking with us, staying put. Dwell likes itself just as it is, no fancy footwork required.
Pink likes to weave his musings through with musicality. In “4’ 33” (after John Cage)” he beats out the relentless pulse of…a dentist’s office. He uses his sharp observation as colorful background for what is essentially music.
I used to listen to it regularly in the dentist’s waiting room. It would always start slowly: a gentle slither and flick of magazine pages accompanied by the counterpoint of the distant ringing of a telephone. I always waited with constricted breath to the sustained high notes of the dentist’s drill that would hang in the air shrill as Valkyries advancing. The rhythm section was provided by the urgent syncopated beat of trains on the railway line across the street. But it always ended on the mezzo sprechgesang of the dental nurse ‘We’re ready for you now.’
Full disclosure: This poem resonated particularly with me, evoking the music I heard as a child in a similar place: “Flight of the BumbleBee.” Also, I had to look up sprechgesang.
The book isn’t all fun and games, though. Pink enchanted me with the romantic scene in “New Perch,” a ballad of enduring love.
We balance on the balcony like two Japanese cups on a high shelf — together — rim to rim perfect and fragile in equal measure. A shingle of stars lies scattered across the sky; it takes a long time for their light to reach this far — like a thought that dawns too late. As we gaze up we reconfigure the constellations, tracing ourselves, joining dot to dot, making new stories to grace this velvet night.
Not every poem in this collection unfolds so easily. “Addicted” spurts uncomfortably, a screech of self-delusion and deceit. It captures the not-quite-lies of someone in denial, and offers no hope of redemption. “Choice Cuts” uses ghastly imagery. “Room 212” is stifling, thick with despair.
Yet, Pink can, with a deft hand, change tempo and color to pure whimsey. In “Face Time,” he shares his morning meeting:
Good morning face! Old friend. We’re looking a bit bristly. Time for a shave. We’ve been together for a long time. *** But it’s how we meet and it helps a lot when applying shaving foam and scraping away those bristles with the razor, cutting a swathe in the white foam like a dutiful householder clearing snow from their path.
All in all, Colin Pink has provided his readers with a range of pieces, and, even as I read, I felt him reaching out, exploring new paths, new voices. This is a fine collection, enjoyable to read in one long sitting, or dipped into randomly. It promises even more to come.
D Ferrara is the editor of American Writers Review, Jewels of San Fedele, and Art in the Time of COVID. Her work has been published in numerous journals. Her photographs and paintings have been shown less numerously.