Books Magazine

Blotter by Oli Hazzard

By Pamelascott

Oli Hazzard's consists of five sequences; each constructed using a different process. In "Graig Syfyrddin" notes on hillwalking in the Welsh marches - the poet's former home - alternate with found text taken from an online walking forum. "Blotter" is a shepherd's calendar of sonnets composed of Russian spambot script - a mix of lifestyle advice, gaming tips, authoritarian propaganda, bucolic fragments and apocalyptic messages. "Within Habit" is a series of prose poems collaged from numerous sources. "March and May" comprises parallel columns of verse. "Or As" is a family of 81 seventeen-syllable poems, each one an erasure of the corresponding page in a different book the poet was writing alongside Blotter.

The poems are preoccupied, above all, with the passage of time, and how that passage can be differently registered or disturbed: the working day, the distorted seasons, the timestamp of a text message, the jottings of a daybook, the formal structure of a shepherd's calendar, the double exposure of a photograph, the reverse-flow of a Twitter feed. The title, Blotter, connects these concerns, suggesting at once a police blotter, a journal, a thing for drying wet spots, and, in its painterly connotation, a way of rendering the world in a manner that is vague, blurred, or out of focus.


[Dawn of Day on minor road to the east - easy parking in unused gate entrance: GRAIG SYFYRDDIN]


(Carcanet Poetry, 22 February 2018, 105 pages, ebook, borrowed from @natpoetrylib via @OverDriveLibs)



This is another stinker of a poetry collection. I've not had much success with poetry recently. Maybe I need to take a break or maybe there are just more turds out there than I thought? The month started off well reading Mary Oliver's excellent Dream Songs but has gradually gone downhill. Blotter is among the worst of the worst, a real stinker. I did not warm to these sequences at all. There seemed to be something pretentious and smug about them as if the poet is showing off the fancy format's he knows. I hate to say it but using weird spacing or an unusual structure does not make a poem good or mean someone is a talented poet. In fact, the cynical among us could say the weird spacing and structure used in these poems is designed to hide the fact the poems themselves have no real depth or deeper meaning, just random words shoe-horned into a shape.

Blotter Hazzard

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