Luke Beesley Reviews Christopher Kelen

By | 3 June 2015

Wolseley has an honest commitment to place and many readers of Kelen will warm to and respect similar ambitions, yet there is so much veering around on display in their final works. Kelen goes some way to warning the reader that getting things down is a priority, as in the title of the poem ‘all lines a mantra till they’re down’, which begins: ‘wild garden I dream / and the journal of paws // cows beyond cud rumble’. The pace is freeing and stays close to the moment of making, following the contour of the land/language. Similarly, this from ‘I hear the beating louder and louder’:

stone in my pocket
travels for meaning 
of elsewhere it is and so I feel 
however torn 
one track time makes

In keeping with a mostly scattered approach to meaning, Kelen retains two manifestoes until late in the book. These are revealed in ‘minor manifesto’ which seems to give precedent to the accidental, and the direction of natural surroundings: ‘see how the storm’s hung our antenna’; and also the quiet underside of things – ‘let there be also / lacking effects / passing unnoticed // let lack itself / set free’. Here is the last poem, ‘manifesto’, which reads (in its entirety):

from my door

everywhere leads me
every way home
nowhere but the way

This is delivered in clear unpunctuated language, a quick sweep through the lines and hints at meaning. In Scavenger’s season there’s the feel of remembrance, of talking to oneself in the dead of night, working at a type of language that might speak of universality; a formal language with which to address notes to the self.

The title, Scavenger’s Season, sounds a little like Christopher Kelen. At times, writing this review, I wrote ‘Scavenger’s’ instead of ‘Kelen’s’, as in ‘Scavenger’s poems …’ The collection has the effect of elevating the interchangeability of author/scavenger, and allowing its music to enter the head.

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