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Review: folk, by Tony Curtis

Stella Stocker, Weyfarers No.111, December 2011

It is good to see the new collection by Tony Curtis Folk. His poems are often condensed short stories or character studies. The frequently ironic style is demotic and, like the traditional 'little black dress,' understated but, by inference beautifully crafted. In the wry Trespass he reflects

This morning reading the newspaper,
I found myself in the business section,
a place I had no business being;
I who rarely stray far beyond the letters or the literary pages...
a place where criticism and opinion
are merely compass, weathervane or fluff.

He goes on to realise what had attracted him,

the misfortune, the gloom,
the bleakness of the prose -

a world stripped bare. It was like the
opening of a Chekhov or Beckett play,
the vulnerability of the little man...

Most poems are first person narratives. They are not self-referential, but reach out touchingly and strongly to other situations, mysterious and universal feelings, as in the seemingly light Opus in F Minor, for five string banjo and fiddle, which opens with a dance-like rhythm;

To make it folk,
I've borrowed a tune from the fields.
I heard a blind man sing; 'Mamma I've been lonesome too long.

To make it folk,
I've added a string to the banjo
and hammer it hard
I move to the beat...

He goes on to describe

When Old Josie begins to sing,
you won't know whether to dance or cry.
and your heart will want to speak
old hurts, old hurts...
Then ghost after ghost takes to the floor
tapping their feet to the music... nobody is lonesome tonight.

The poem unravels denial of loneliness, ending

...join us in the next folk song.

You may already know it,
It's called:
When you open your eyes
to look at me, all I see is sorrow