All three-dimensional objects can be experienced in two dimensions: it just takes some careful unpicking of the seams. Witty, comic, plaintive, touching, acerbic, droll, cavalier, caffeinated, irreverent, stringent: Austerities, the mind-altering substantial debut from Sam Riviere, seems to achieve the impossible in being all things at once. Initially conceived as a response to the ‘austerity measures’ implemented by the coalition government in 2011, the poems quickly began taking on a life in kind: ‘cutting’ themselves on levels of sentiment, structure and even subject matter.
Not content to merely build a series of freethinking poems, these remarkable pieces seem eagerly and mischievously to analyze their moment of creation, then weigh their worth, then consign their excess to the recycling bin thereafter. Experience is speedy, the poems seem to say, so dizzyingly fast that the poetry will inevitably be running to catch up – often arriving at a scene the moment after the moment has gone. The effect is as funny and it is startling, beguiling as it is surprising, and makes Austerities a vivid reminder that deprivation, as Leonard Cohen put it, can be the mother of poetry.
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