Defining moments

<strong>Folklore</strong>

<em>Tim Atkins</em>

Salt, 80pp, £12.99

“No label is convincing,” writes Tim Atkins in his new poem sequence, which traces not only the changing landscapes of the Malvern Hills, but also the writer’s pursuit of a more convincing language. The result of this search is sparse and suggestive poetry, in which “syllables break off in the wind” and “information forks”.

Single instants are vividly felt, such as when a man “rubbed his knees into the wet road. (Leaves) his eczema, red flakes on the concrete”, but these are affixed to neither narratives nor characters. Instead, they are woven into a misty landscape that “Is, is and is”, with all the immediacy and timelessness that the present tense implies.

Atkins’s mistrust of labels leads him to use words for their associations rather than their definitions. In a painting, “There is black & blue. Blue & blue. Black”: the nouns are not concrete, the full stops do not conclude.

Initially, these liberal pepperings of punctuation might seem somewhat contrived – there is, after all, no shortage of uninspired e e cummings imitators. As the sequence progresses, however, it becomes apparent that here is a fresh voice – and a fresh way for words to behave.

Folklore rewrites the rules of grammar and, at its best, makes us relearn how to read.