Saturday 29 February 2020

For 2020, the StAnza Blog is hosting DURA – the Dundee University Review of the Arts – who as reviewers in virtual residence on the StAnza Blog will post excerpts from their selection of reviews of titles by poets on the StAnza 2020 programme, including this one in today’s blog. The full review can be read on their website at  https://dura-dundee.org.uk/category/poets-stanza-2019-reviews/. Written by staff and students, DURA is keen to promote the diversity of artists and art forms in the UK context, supporting especially (albeit non-exclusively) independent cinema outlets, exhibitions, theatre, film and publishing. 

Tim Turnbull, Avanti!, reviewed by Amy Turnbull

Tim Turnbull’s writing seems oddly familiar – and not just because we share a surname. His work evokes the sense within us that there is something more to our lives than the simple 9 to 5 routine. Avanti!, his fourth poetry collection, presents many Turnbull-esque qualities, for example he focuses on ‘adult lives blighted by human and political folly’. With the growing pressures of modern age, many can feel the same tension and frustration that Turnbull presents in his poetry.

Entitling this collection Avanti! – or ‘to go forward!’, ‘come in!’– is ironic as Turnbull spends much of his time in the past. From mourning the dead to exploring the mysteries of the ancient Greeks, he is searching for the unanswerable. So why Avanti!? Perhaps it comes from the need to move on, rather than the push itself. Yet, it could also figure as a greeting in what seems to be this time-turning collection.

Turnbull presents a mixture of humour and gruesome imagery to suggest an understanding of this future. He creates a deadpan tone through his kicked-back style. Consider ‘Zimbardoland’ where he takes the horrific Stanford Prison experiment (where people adapted to the roles of prisoners and guards, resulting in mass violence) and finds parallels to the UK 2015 election. This placed the politicians on the same wavelength of the prison guards in their willingness to conform.

the subjects
in the interests
of efficiency
have been persuaded
to press their own buttons.

Go on. Press it.
You know you want to.