"a brackish ring / for you": Stuart Calton's The Corn Mother

Abena Sutherland will be reviewing for you today

Barque 1-903488-52-4. February 2006. 26 pp.
GBP £4.00 / USD $8.00

Her body
is mealtickets
for you [...]
You could set it up like this: Henry Sidgwick in The Elements of Politics (1891) considered migration as the site of a 'general conflict' between cosmopolitan and national ideals, a moral question which tests (or threatens to obliterate) the basis of state sovereignty. This Calton pamphlet of historical-process portrait miniature, part cycle of disease, part catalogue of sacrificial-economic glimpses, visits an equivalent contemporary zone: if order depends on violent friction, going into the violence is the only way to question its regime. The walls and containers, tunnels and fields.

Airless shacks over
the waves, under
the soft sky's freight
of dust, fines and
dockage spat onto
track to the heart
of the field
our jobs blinking
in the sunlight.
Or it could go like this: The title slowly gives the book a quality of an incantation, though one of orphanhood, and shorn stems. Blood in the soil for the crop: a sense of belonging.

Like a
you didn't ask
to be what
you got, handed
down (tunnel)
divine womb,
shitty T-shirt
torn open.
The driver of this verse, various repetitions (rubbing, body, immolation) dotted over occasional scenes and more persistent cross-cut exhortations. Not one speed but at least three - moments of very slow explicitness; high pressure jump starts; a bathos-tinged familiar slow collision of half-analogy. Also something reminiscent of 19th century reformers' use of genre irony appears in tour guide interruptions emerging from the overall address, and in one or two legal puns, one of which echoes in a sample: "in full effect".

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