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BALANCING ACT Review by Paul Sutherland
The Poor School Poetry Anthology, Balancing Act, is passion-driven with powerful portrayals of contemporary urban life. Page after page entices with its mix of black humour and serious commentary.The hostess in The London Eye records her experiences in comic style: encounters with children terrified of heights or being a dismal eye-witness to a man proposing in ‘Cupid’s Cubicle’ shocked by his beloved’s rejection. The writer’s matter-of-fact delivery increases rather than detracts from the emotional pull. The surface of the everyday is cracked open to reveal the crazy insides of human situations. An actress stutters through all the possible mis-cues and disasters that can confront the theatrical ego on stage. There’s ego-smashing when the selfishness of an angsty teenager is exposed or the self-importance of lovers, fortune-hunters and fairy tale impersonators or people wanting an easy ride is laid bare. Equally highlighted are attempts to redress, show the ‘other side’, balance the story, never more than in ‘The Other Woman’. Relationships/ mis- relationships get well and truly explored in the collection: the roller- coaster climb of love and its bitter disappointment and collapse. There are portrays of tragedy too in the anthology, the moment when you’re asked ‘are you sitting down’, becomes an ominous if casual phrase. One of the key features in the poems is the effective shift from colloquial or street language to formal diction, giving the poems pace and scope which equates with the recurrent theme that adjustments often need to be made for the protagonists to survive. The poems come quick and fast with fresh language and insights. The average age of the writers is about twenty-five, and a youthful energy comes through the pieces with an underlying determination that each character wants to live as best they can faced with various difficult circumstances. Balancing Act seems an appropriate title. Most of the writing shows an attempt to keep ideals but to balance them with the solid weight of realism. The writers are listed in the contents as actors and actresses in a theatre performance. This creates the feeling that the poems interact with each other giving the collection a further dynamic to intrigue the reader.
Paul Sutherland: Canadian-British poet and writer with seven published collections and editor of seven others. He’s the founding editor of Dream Catcher, a distinguished international literary arts journal. Paul won the 2008 Nassau Review (US) Poetry Prize for best poem submitted to the journal, came 2nd in the English Association Poetry Prize 2009 and was highly commended in Aesthetica Creative Works Competition the same year. A poem of his has been selected for the Olympics 2012. He runs creative writing workshops, seminars and personal tutoring, and is a frequent public performer of his poetry. A new full collection, Journeying, will be due out in
September this year.
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