PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Alberto Manguel Selbstgefühl New poems by Fleur Adcock, Claudine Toutoungi and Tuesday Shannon James Campbell A Walk through the Times Literary Supplement
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
PN Review New Issue

This review is taken from PN Review 220, Volume 41 Number 2, November - December 2014.

Out There derrick buttress, Welcome to the Bike Factory (Shoestring Press) £9.00
jay ramsay, Agistri Notebook (Knives Forks and Spoons) £6.00
tom chivers, Flood Drain (Annexe Press) £4.00
william palmer, The Paradise Commissionaire (Rack Press) £5.00
christine de luca, Dat Trickster Sun (Mariscat Press) £6.00

Which elements of the world ‘out there’ remain dark to poetry? Although, after the banking crash, economists now praise skilled engineers, most English poets ignore industry. Derrick Buttress is a praiseworthy exception. His pamphlet, Welcome to the Bike Factory, explores the bitter roots of British industry. Buttress, who also writes prose and radio plays, has a keen ear for the facts of others’ speech. He pares down the words, published in 1842, of Patience Kershaw, 17, who hauled coal wagons: ‘I go to the pit at five o’clock / and come out at five in the evening’. A different route ‘out’ is found by the ‘stockinger’ who, in Buttress’ telling last line, ‘taught himself to read and write’.

Buttress hits home with his account of school Shakespeare: ‘We were not chosen for our thespian gifts, / but because we could read’. (This is still the poetry of our world, with 5.2 million English adults ‘functionally illiterate’, according to the National Literacy Trust.) The post-war ‘Bike Factory’ offered work at its most numbing, mechanically rhythmic: ‘clocking on, clocking off’. Though Buttress occasionally labours points, his account of the arrival of a new car is subtly ominous. The bike factory workers (who knew their metals) ‘searched for a flash of chrome, found none’. The discovery that the ‘brand new Ford’ was a ‘cheap tin toy’ quietly undercuts the declaration: ‘the car was definitely a sign / of the good times coming our way’.

Affluence may betray. Buttress’ poems do not. They are wise, energetic and humorous. When ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image