26 October 2009

Book Review: Urban Driftwood, by Morgan Davie, Jane Elizabeth, Dan Rabarts and Stephen Rhoades

Urban Driftwood is an anthology of poems and short stories/prose poems written by Morgan Davie, Jane Elizabeth, Dan Rabarts and Stephen Rhoades. It's currently available as a free download from Dan Rabarts' web site, and is also available from Lulu.com.

Urban Driftwood
consists mainly of poetry, with a few longer pieces which I would class as being prose poems rather than short stories - though that is always a difficult boundary to define. It's a nicely-put-together collection of the four authors' work; the book is divided into sections, but rather than each section representing the work of one author, they are loosely organised by theme, with the section titles being "waking", "change", "ritual", "ache" and "love".

I don't know any of the writers represented in Urban Driftwood in person, but I know Dan Rabarts virtually, and he tells me that the work in Urban Driftwood dates from the respective authors' late teens and early twenties, and hence early in their writing careers. That's reflected in the variable quality of the work in Urban Driftwood, but the good news - and it is good news - is that there are pieces by each writer in Urban Driftwood that I like very much, and though there are also weaker pieces by each writer, the overall standard is high.

What particularly stood out for me? Overall, I thought Morgan Davie's work was the most polished, and in particular two longer pieces on the prose poem/short story boundary, the somewhat hard-boiled riff on Red Riding Hood, "Hanging Tough", and also "vive le roi". Jane Elizabeth contributed several short poems about love and relationships that I enjoyed, such as "Pier", "Bus" and "Rain". Dan Rabarts has a darker style which is shown at its best in "Refraction", but his "Untitled", the final poem in the book, is delightfully sweet, gentle and succinct. And Stephen Rhoades contributes a couple of fine poems in "Journey In-Between" and "Musings".

Back in the early 1990s, I edited two anthologies of work from members of the Writers' Intensive Care Group (WICG) in Dunedin, What on Earth and Electroplasm. Urban Driftwood is in a similar tradition, and the four writers involved have done an excellent job in getting their work in front of readers. I do encourage you to download it and check it out.

2 comments:

Morgan said...

Thanks Tim, what a nice review. While we've never actually met, I've known who you are since Forrycon! I was 15 I think then, my first con... I've known all the JAAM crowd (Mark, Helen, Clare) since the start and I also know the Redbrick guys via the RPG scene, so I've come across your name a bunch of times over the years :-) Will actually get to say hello one of these days I'm sure!

Tim Jones said...

I'm glad you liked the review, Morgan, and it's hard to believe we haven't met, given all that shared history! Let's hope we do soon.