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Catherine Woodward
Richard Price "Greenfields"
Published by Carcanet Press Ł9.95

‘Stop, and in a tunnel of radio
A probe is among moons.’

It would be fair to say that Richard Price’s poetry is dauntingly avant-garde, with a deceptive simplicity, narratives that end without starts and tell middles without ends. The very design of Greenfeilds is a mysterious animal, a Scottish childhood told in snapshots, and the essences of friends, family and lovers captured in the fewest words allowable. Price manages once again to make his reader see vividly his experience, both in what is said and what is not.
It may be very well that the deepest facets of meaning in Greenfeids indeed lie in what is not told, Price laying down the disjointed bare bones of a memory and allowing the reader to fill in the gaps for themselves, for example ‘A border, a marriage, a battle, a boy, a river, a lip, a hook. A hook.’ This is repeated in the poem Dry Bed, chanted in a childlike rhythm, both foreboding and mystic, we must make our own assumptions on it. In the poem Hydro Hotel it is precisely the words undisclosed, marked by ellipses, that are the crux of the poem.
This highly original response to very human themes appears minimalist, especially when just a lonely line or too are swamped by the whiteness of a mostly blank page. But this style and presentation only serve to highlight Price’s cunning intelligence. When reading the poems of Greenfields one finds that the poet is communicating with them on a higher level; the reader may not grasp the full meaning of his abstract story telling but will certainly feel the emotion implied, much the same sensation given by reading TS Elliot.
So many of the poems in Greenfields are achingly heartwarming, the simple but clear child’s eye view upon a far off Scotland endears, and the sporadically told story of an ending relationship evokes a powerful sympathy. Even something in Price’s Tube Shelter Perspective has a poignance, its imagery clear with a strange relatability, particularly in ‘The Long-closed Stations…’ and ‘Two Years and not a Dance Between Us…’ which convey a sense of ending, of hopelessness.
Even so, Price still displays his subtle, cynical sense of humor with clever word play ‘Carpe diem, the fish of laughter’ ‘The river hasn’t a legend to stand on’, easily recognized these small glitches of wit break up dismal nostalgias.
But perhaps the best feature of the abstract Greenfields is its latter chapters, where a strong sense of affection seeps up from in between the lines of Price’s poetry. The shadows of love come through in ‘Small dense hours’ an insomniacs poem, and in the beautiful ‘Saying the Swim’.
One of those collections that demand at least three thorough readings before it can be truly appreciated, Price’s Informationist school of poetry is an acquired taste, but should not be dismissed; the sensation of reading Greenfeilds should at the very least be experienced.