Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Other people's poetry - Hazel Buchan Cameron

Hazel Buchan Cameron is another one of those people who I know-but-don't-really-know-at-all (in an internet stylee). As far as I can recall I've never even spoken to this writer but I have had emails from her (she's something organisational to do with Scottish Pamphlet Poetry and they've let me sell cards at their book fairs), I've read some of her life story (a draft anyway... she appealed for test readers on facebook and we are 'friends' on there) and now I've read some of her poetry (to be precise her latest pamphlet 'Finding Ikea'). The book in question looks like this:

I was first attracted to this pamphlet when I read some reviews of it (also via Hazel's facebook page). The reviews (which all feel a bit like somebody's school homework to me...) are here, if you're interested. So why did they grab me..? Well, I suppose it was the first one (and there are three)... as well as some complimentary words ("a refreshing collection in a way: here is someone willing to come out and say what she thinks, or fears") the first reviewer called Hazel's poems, in places, "gratuitous", "unsubtle" and "immature", referred to "clichéd endings" and worried that she was "not in safe hands" (with this book/poet). Instead of being shocked or dismayed (perhaps the intention...) I was intrigued! Oh goody, I thought, perhaps here's a poet who gets misunderstood now and again too! This review made me keen to see Hazel's book (and sure to steer clear of anything put out by this reviewer... Jeez who wants maturity and safe hands in their poetry... not I... certainly not all the time... people's views on poetry never fail to astonish me...).

For balance I should say here that the second reviewer was more positive about the pamphlet overall (though felt the need to drag in that tiresome 'show, don't tell' business – boring... now there's your cliché, folks!) and that the last reviewer wrote something mindnumbingly daft about the cover but then recovered. Anyway, poetry reviews... rarely the most exciting reading in the world.

So on to 'Finding Ikea'. I am not going to review this pamphlet (ahem..) but I will just say this - as with Helena Nelson's "Plot and Counter Plot" (we talked about that just back here) I had a long list of poems that I might well have chosen to reproduce here (and there are only 22 in the book - not bad going). The title poem is meaty (to say the least) and there are lots of other poems in here that speak clearly, rhythmically and defiantly and in a pretty original voice (to my mind). I didn't feel safe after reading this little collection (I'm glad to say) – instead I felt stimulated, on the edge of my seat, alive. In end I asked for this poem... because it's tight and perceptive and the kind of thing that can only be written after some pretty interesting living. Hazel Buchan Cameron is most definitely, my friends, my kind of poet (and that's probably the kiss of death...sorry Hazel...).


I have a stalker watching over me,
constructed from discarded flesh
and bones of those I've known ―
sometimes for just one day.
Yet I kept their look of scorn,
sneers of contempt,
a shaking head or
a finger to point.

I stored them all,
built an incondite Frankenstein,
to articulate my every doubt
and gatecrash all I dream about.

From 'Finding Ikea' by Hazel Buchan Cameron (2010 Red Squirrel Press, £4). Buy the book and read about Hazel here.



Eryl said...

You are so contrary young Ms Fox. I bet you got called bolshie at school!

Immature has always struck me as complimentary, but I never know what people mean by 'gratuitous'. And this poem definitely strikes a chord.

Rachel Fox said...

44 at the weekend... who you callin' young!

And was I bolshie..? Maybe... Couldn't we go for 'spirited'..?


martine said...

what does 'incondite' mean, my dictionary has no suggestions?

Rachel Fox said...

That word wasn't in the dictionary I have by the computer here either... I had to look it up when I read the poem first too! Online dictionary says "1. poorly constructed: said of literary works 2. lacking finish or refinement; crude."