Roger McGough, Joinedupwriting (Penguin, London, 2019)
Roger McGough’s Joinedupwriting is an elegant failure at summing up. Because a life grown old seldom finds a final word for all we’ve said – and McGough still has a lot to say. The collection is structured, loosely, with a poem on each page (or sometimes over the page) so a spread forms a conversation between two poems. Often the retort undoes the initiator, forbidding either side to have its way. Take ‘PS Pathetic’ replying to ‘Closing In’, for example. The titles alone suggest that thoughts of a close are futile. The first poem sets the scene: snow has landed surprisingly late (or is it?) in ‘bleak midwinter in mid-March’. Yet there is nothing ‘mid’ about the extreme events. Planes have frozen, birds fled, and children abandoned half-finished snowmen by the Thames. Oddly enough the only life is ‘a snow leopard’ that ‘lies in wait for the fox clubs’. And on the horizon, someone, or something, comes staggering through the blizzard: ‘Can it be April? April to the rescue? Sadly no. A snowman closing in on a lost child’. We get to revel in this image: exotic, mildly threatening, then ultimately absurd, as a comment on ‘closing in’. For if the snowman is moving quickly, he’ll most probably melt before even reaching the child. Over the page ‘PS Pathetic’ gives us this reality check in more direct terms. ‘Hold on there’ reads the first voice in the poem, ‘A snow leopard in a suburban garden in west London?’. Preposterous, it thinks. But the second voice is ...
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