PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
Digital Access to PN Review
Access the latest issues, plus back issues of PN Review with Exact Editions For PN Review subscribers: access the PN Review digital archive via the Exact Editions app Exactly or the Exact Editions website, you will first need to know your PN Review ID number. read more
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Gratis Ad 1
Monthly Carcanet Books
Next Issue Thomas Kinsella in conversation Jeffrey Wainwright comes to grips with St Chad Hsien Min Toh gives us a Korean perspective Iain Bamforth on Lou and Fritz: Sensible Shoes meets Starstruck Judith Bishop on Love and Self-Understanding in an Algorythmic Age

This review is taken from PN Review 237, Volume 44 Number 1, September - October 2017.

Cover of More Flowers Than You Could Possibly Carry
John MuckleAlias Smith Simon Smith, More Flowers Than You Could Possibly Carry: Selected Poems 1989–2012 (Shearsman), £12.95

Simon Smith is a contemporary English exponent of early post-war US poetics, and this career-spanning selected poems shows him always to have been a good poet. His edges are smooth and buff, his wit is sharp, and a brew based on the mixed grains of O’Hara, Spicer, Reverdy and Catullus is distilled into pure English moonshine. This book, edited by Barry Schwabsky, opens with a dense, politically-driven sequence in which he batters late capitalism to a pulp, quickly thereafter spiralling up into exquisite bird song, and soon develops a politicised lyric of domestic heterosexual happiness, which is the dominant mood of his writing. There’s a lot of name-dropping: mille dedications to friends and contemporaries, copious references to poetic heroes and classics – a practice amounting at its most tiresome to a sort of obsessive self-positioning – but there is a genuine reverence for his chosen masters (‘you knew all poets are liars didn’t you, you knew’ ‘The Magician, Jack Spicer’, p. 65) and warm affection for friends and poets who emerged just ahead of him in the late eighties. Lightness of touch is a prerequisite of the New York manner, and Smith’s referentiality might have led to some soggy soufflés if he wasn’t quite so astute, so wary of being caught out, and if his poetry wasn’t also grounded in local cultural observations. Irvine Welsh gets a drubbing with a line referring to ‘wankers from Crouch End who think Trainspotting is the real thing’. But this kind of louche inverted postcode snobbery and middle-class knowingness isn’t all Smith has to offer, and ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image