What I look for in a poetry pamphlet or book is the quality of writing, first and foremost, followed by the presentation of the poems. I don’t care for shiny covers, or ISBNs, or fancy publishing and copyright information – after all, half the publishers you hear of are actually vanity press. That is not to deride vanity press, of course; after all, some people have the ££££ to spend, and the garage to stock their books while they sell them at events.
As a fellow artist, I can appreciate the charm in Simon Robson’s photocopied pamphlet, Backyard Cabbages. It contains 17 pages of poetry along with black and white photographs of a garden shot in high exposure. Many of the poems focus on ordinary people; neighbours, locals, any sort you would meet in your neighbourhood or down the pub. The poems and photos give the reader a sense of loneliness and isolation as the poet observes everyday occurrences and unsuspecting people, writing about the events in candid speech that is quirky and at times humorous. One of my favourites is Bed-sit nightmare No. 1, which reflects on youth and fulfilment through a contrast between naive neighbours experiencing the trivialities of life, while the poet suffers the limitations of life through coping with illness. The photo at the end of this poem on page 10 captures the moment perfectly; the stark afternoon sun isolates a strip of garden where the flowers are in bloom, while the rest of the garden falls under shadow.
Overall, this pamphlet offers a lot of food for thought. Backyard Cabbages will make a great salad for you to eat, without giving you any flatulence. At £1.50, it’s well worth a read for those who enjoy honest poetry that isn’t preachy. Simon Robson’s pamphlets are published at: Grovsenor Road Books, 172 Grovsenor Road, Aldershot, Hants, GU11 3EJ.
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