Bobby Parker, Blue Movie

Bobby Parker, Blue Movie (Nine Arches, 2014), £8.99, ISBN 978-0-992-7589-7-4

Reviewed by Tom Bland

[Originally published in LP6/7, Jan/Feb 2015]

Every other poem has the fucking moon
blaring out from the centre, makes me sick!

‘Fuck the Moon’ is one of my least favourite poems in Bobby Parker’s Blue Movie, but he has a point; the moon is one of those images that turns up everywhere, as if words can’t cope without moonlight. He writes:

We have overdosed on the moon; caught exotic
diseases, genital warps, spent nights in jail
with your fucking moons up our arses.

Parker’s also sticking moons up our arses; he’s another poet writing fucking poems but he has moments of denial, as in ‘Snow Hill’ when he tries to tell his mum this isn’t a poem, even though they both know it is, “so you probably won’t read it.” Will you read his work? I guess it depends if you can bear a poet taking you into the arsehole of life; every poet shits, but god forbid he should write about shit. In ‘Particles’, he notes,

I left my trainers by the front door
then traced my steps looking for stains.
The stink made me think of my insides.

What is beautiful about Parker’s book is each poem acts as a fragment of the seething turbulence of failure, self-disgust and anger (never resentment) painted for us throughout the collection. The word ‘ghost’ appears repeatedly. His poems are a sequence of experiences overlapping intensities like layers of paint, and he tears through them leaving not a hole, but intersecting gashes.

In the most remarkable and heart rendering poem of the book, ‘Ducks Staring Into You,’ the stink is his cocaine habit, making him blank even to the bubbles of his daughter’s bath – though he recognises the pain he should feel at the bubbles “that won’t be there tomorrow.” On the back of the book, Sam Riviere identifies “hope” as a defining feature, but I wonder if he really means ‘vulnerability’, as Parker knows and feels the shit on his shoes, knows that he fails time and again and writes it all down, tracing his steps just one more time.

Not every poem works in the book. The aforementioned ‘Fucking the Moon’ is too obvious – it’s no secret the moon is one of the biggest clichés in poetry – and needs to be a bit more interesting. (But I might say this due to loving the moon, speaking to the moon when I was a teenager, coming home drunk or stoned or both after fucking or not getting laid and trying to figure out why, or depressed, or just walking…)

Most of the poems go way beyond the obvious into what Riviere calls, a “genuine cause for alarm.” Clare Pollard comments in her essay, ‘Getting Poetry to Confess’, that confessional poetry “explores our darkest emotional instincts: our deepest scars, secrets, griefs and desires. It is the mode in which poetry, so often deemed by people as dusty and irrelevant to their lives, can proclaim its relevancy.”[1] This is what Parker does in his exceptional Blue Movie.

[1] Clare Pollard, ‘Getting Poetry to Confess,’ Magma, 21 (Autumn 2001).

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