Straight Ahead by Clare Shaw

Shaw's work hits - and bruises - with a deliberate candour

Book Review by Ryan Van Winkle | 12 Mar 2007
Book title: Straight Ahead
Author: Clare Shaw
Clare Shaw's debut collection, Straight Ahead, hints at the emergence of a raw, new poetic voice. Shaw's work hits - and bruises - with a deliberate candour that is not cloaked in esoteric and cerebral nonsense. For instance, in her poem Plucked, Shaw's clear control of violent, meaty, sexual imagery bucks and resonates with a reader. She writes, "It wasn't like you'd expect. / It was meat. It was / yellow and greasy. Blisters of fat." And this image at that moment in the poem is a gut ripper. Shaw has a store of excellent ideas that are conveyed without the flowery spirals or frigid coyness of other poetry. The feelings and desire of her characters are like flesh and bone on her page. These poems are not interested in secrets; they are interested in letting them go. And yet, none of them feels like a confessional; that would be slight. Unfortunately what most of them are is unrelenting. At times it just feels that Shaw has caged hundreds of rabid images and metaphors and has anxiously released them all at once. For example in her poem This Baby, it seems like the poet has merely succeeded in making an excellent list of great images to describe a baby: "a dinosaur, the light of a star, news, a fallen seed" and as excellent as all those images are, they're uncontrolled, thoughtless and, like most poems in this collection, in need of stricter editing. [Ryan Van Winkle]
Out Now. Published by Bloodaxe Books. Cover Price £7.95.