5 Aug 2015

As I Sit Quietly, I Begin to Smell Burning by McGuire

In the selection of poems and prose called As I Sit Quietly, I Begin to Smell Burning, poet and author McGuire drags good old fashioned manly Glasgow into a more gender-gentle era.

There once was a time when ‘boys should be strong enough to keep themselves afloat’ where there was nothing unequivocal about what it was to be a man.  It leads McGuire to face up to the city’s misogynist heart:

None of this hetero-flexible, omnisexual,
bending a little, frying pan sexuality.
I’m a man’s man but not a man’s man for ‘aw that.’

Sporrans from Pakistan clashes the obvious possibilities of globalism with the consumer concerns of our day, in the form of 'a Scot-Mid Soliloquy' which profiles an angry Scots shopper, whose ideas are tinged with a form of doubt that is at best ironic, and at worst racist when considering the provenance of his shopping — save the Indian in his oven.

Throughout As I Sit Quietly, I Begin to Smell Burning the wit sparkles, but what stays with you after the book is closed is an uneasy feeling as you wonder what in the hell it is you have just read. 

From time to time, McGuire is like every other poet of his time and place, and like them he is sometimes simply silly, as in Summer Biscuits, which reads like a fondly recalled episode from childhood, when something as simple as tasting a biscuit allows temerity and eternity to collide.

Word-plays in poetry are normally spun to some clever effect, but that appears to be lacking in As I Sit Quietly, I Begin to Smell Burning.  This is not a bad thing, as word-plays to clever effect are somewhat passé, and serve a purpose, somewhere in that fast increasing territory where poetry and stand-up comedy meet.

Instead the word-plays in As I Sit Quietly, I Begin to Smell Burning represent the style of play best associated with the literary sandpits of postmodernism. Hence, I would refer to them as collisions.  There is no sense that anything clever is being sought in this poetry, but instead it seems like McGuire is attempting concision, precision, and a certain amount of indecision. These are aims which will often fail, but they indicate a certain forethought about the medium, if not also the subject.  In fact, everything is tackled by McGuire in a slightly new way, and that is in itself a pleasure.

This is from Delta Phos B, which deals with internet porn, and addictions to it:

Digital harem eroding will power,
fucking with the frontal cortex.
Alone and voyeuristic, hermetically sealed
in the anonymity of web cam dark
confessional box, tomb of a hot bedroom.

The relevance of poetry is also always a trusted subject, made finer in this collection by the subsequent questioning of the relevance of poets in Lackey: The Useless Poet.

It is a good question, asked more frequently than most will admit. Poetry is still an unpopular art in many respects, but that may be because so much of it is poor, and it often lacks a certain relevance.

I'd say however, that As I Sit Quietly, I Begin to Smell Burning is more relevant than many slim volumes out there, as it tackles style as well as subject, and handles both in manners that you will not have previously encountered.

A Glaswegian website by McGuire