The web page of the Albion Beatnik Bookstore in Oxford, now closed (as usual) for business: muses and misspills on books, jazz, poetry, stuff like false flags and smoke screen: was randomly decrepit and proven to be more than neo-bankrupt: it was so analogue it was anal and now deceased.
I’ve always liked Tina Sederholm’s poetry. There is a plumb line weighted with honesty that cuts through it, and she probes either side of its divide. Her whole craft is built on this division. In practice she is a lyrical schizophrenic, two poetic personalities in one, each standoffish and aloof from the other. Or so I thought, but I’ve changed my mind and can now see the two stitched together. So she does a bit of the one-night stand, short trousered slam poetry (can’t stand it myself, but I recognise that we all tend to do jigsaws or play computer games before we grow up and get to do the kitchen grouting or dig the vegetable patch), and also Tina sits in on workshops that involve footnotes and social tact, in fact has a long and wholesome marriage with the long trousered stuff, chiselling away and knowing that her craft involves more than rhyming cocktails and cheap shots. But this is where Tina has won: these two sides of her craft stitched together like a Harlequin’s attire. The book is published by Burning Eye, an outfit that specializes in slam style. But heck, this is a Trojan Horse: inside is stuff that reads like the proper stuff, like proper poetry, not that nasty slam stuff (it’s okay, them lot don’t care much for me either).
Loud and shouty or thoughtful and notated, it doesn’t seem to matter: this book probes, and gently so. She’s in henpecking mood, for sure, but her tongue is doused in the realities of kindness rather than spiteful assault, and her critique of life, and of others or of herself, is truthful but respectful. The poetry nags always at our humdrum aspect and asks why it isn’t more glorious; it sheds light on our more routine inconsistencies; it is displeased at the distorted thinking we might, on a lazy day, otherwise accept. If she could dust this humdrum, inconsistency and distortion away, she would (though it’d be a bit half-hearted coz she is, I fancy, like the title of one section of the book, a ‘reluctant feminist’); instead she lines these distortions up like ten-pins and throws big skittle balls at them. This poetry communicates: it is witty and it flows like molten observation, if only of the routine and casual that invade all of our lives. So the poetry can indeed be slim in its thoughtful ambition, yet the small world it curates is familiar, and it has this marvellous habit of turning the often opaque into the lucid, or the unsaid into a conversation.
‘Redress’ is a breeze, and, yeh, what would happen if women actually wore them red dresses hanging up in “our” closet (note the plural possessive, sharp that is, includes us blokes in on the act)? And, if a bloke, you can’t read ‘On Marriage’ without folding in two with a guffaw before the guilt sets in, and I’d recommend this book for that poem alone.
It’s morning, so I go to the kitchen
and find you have left me
dirty wine glasses filled
with smashed pistachio shells.
I put the milk back in the fridge
and rinse out Tupperware, greasy
with congealing curry sauce.
I call these things love tokens,
symbols of your devotion,
and I call them that
because cursing you
when you leave last night’s
late-night snack everywhere
hurts me, not you.
It goes on (and on! what a nag!), but the poem’s close offers a clue to the book’s title, Everything Wrong With You Is Beautiful:
Besides, I made a promise
to love all of you.
And, true, I didn’t know
exactly what that entailed,
but at least I’m learning
what not to do.
Like cursing you
for simply being you.
I did a philosophical experiment. I dusted off my Bowiesque word scissor technique and I challenged the book’s title. Importantly it showed me how difficult it must have been to have been the Bee Gees, to have come up with song titles that weren’t never /sometimes /almost drippy. But my conclusion here is that this title works, just like the poetry. It’s a great book.
Tina launches this book at the Old Fire Station in Oxford, 27th June, 2017, 8:30pm.