Platypus Press is a new boutique publisher from the UK focusing on poetry, and I recently had the privilege of reading two books from their small catalogue of titles.
“These poems grew out of the years I spent on the streets, in the bars, squatting in derelict houseboats, and getting high with my friends and lovers in Sausalito, California, during its halcyon days. I was 25 then; I’m 81 now.”
The poems in this collection reflect the charmed imagination of an irascible dreamer looking back at his glory days. They are at times perhaps too direct, too unfiltered by poetic refraction, but they are peppered with wild imagery and clever turns of phrase, as in Phantom Houseboats:
of sounds inside the walls,
of unkind strangers, and
of wolves blowing down the dream.”
– page 21
The imagery of the collection blends the wildness of nature, the dark mischief of classic fairy tales, and high mythology of the Bible, all distorted through the crass and gritty lens of early 1960s California, as in Brief Encounter:
“‘There were cinders in my eyes
and God between my legs,
and spittle on my chin
and you laughing,
‘Little pig, little pig, let me come in!'”
– page 43
I can easily imagine these poems being read aloud, and that is perhaps their best setting. One pictures Corey intoning the following poem with just the right blend of wistful sincerity and winking impishness:
litter the floor
where I slept last night
of other rooms,
I should have done,
but did not do to you
in the closet.”
– page 31
The collection does, as I said, lack a certain poetic polish, but I imagine so did Sausalito in 1959. It’s an enjoyable and brief look at a few years that indelibly impacted this poet.
Michelle Tudor’s You Are the Map is an earnest and richly felt look at young love. The title poem, which starts the book, concludes: “That’s it. / I mark an x. / You are the map.” The remainder of its pages are an exploration of that map, of the flights and falls of love with a person who makes your head spin. The book traces the path of infatuation and discovery, bliss and contentment, friction and discord, rupture and grief. The relationship swells with song and then dissipates.
Early on it is all joy and desire and fulfillment, as in Creased Linens:
“Tangled fingers and hair like
the savage depths of autumn.”
– page 16
And in The Universe Breathes:
“let me follow your roots
let me become acquainted
with the melody of your ribcage.”
– page 17
In the book’s final half, however, this love falls apart, and what is left is an ache for what is absent, a sharpness of grief that no amount of perspective in the moment can soften for us. When we lose our early loves, it kills us. It hurts. There is a frankness of feeling here that is untempered by bashfulness. Tudor does not apologize for the earnestness of her emotion here. Her poems remind me of Tyler Knott Gregson’s love poems–not complicated or intricate in their articulation; but sincere, effusive, honest, deeply felt.
Platypus Press is doing some cool stuff. I love their cover designs–just images and text that make their books attractive and easy to pull off a shelf. I hope they’re able to grow and diversify their catalogue over the coming years. I’ll be keeping an eye on them.