Standard Twin Fantasy
by Sam Riviere
36 pages / $7.60 buy from Amazon
1. Standard Twin Fantasy is a minimalist effort. Twinned in its very design – just fourteen short poems: 7 on the recto until you get to the staples where the whole thing doubles back on itself and delivers another 7 poems on the verso side for the remainder of the book.
2. This attention to detail makes sense for a writer who only started to write poetry whilst still an art-student and follows a swathe of books in the last few years which add such details to their poetry/alt-lit productions (trailers for books, books serialized initially as blogs, as tweets, books such as Riviere’s debut ’81 Austerities’ which include back-matter, more usually associated with non-fiction, that contains 81 reflections on the 81 poems that have come before it. Such things have been extended lately by the subject of my last 25 Points review of Richard Brammer’s ‘Public Dick Punk 83’ which goes as far as including a completely unusable index.
3. In some ways it is tempting to see Riviere as a product of Alt-Lit, and indeed he has admitted and advocated a pro-alt-lit position in his online essay ‘Unlike’: Forms of Refusal in Poetry on the Internet and has borrowed/helped to create many of the innovations of Alt-Lit, but still he seems, to me anyway, to be more of a shadowy figure in the mold of a Jon Leon or a Richard Brammer, rather than one of the many acolytes of Tao Lin, which although they are all different share a kind of Adderall-prose that doesn’t quite seem like these more outsider figures. This is pretty much a baseless thesis, more of a hunch really, but I stick by it.
4. Poem number 1 (all of the poems are untitled which I’m sort of glad about for some reason) instantly seems to evoke Jon Leon’s cast of (un)glamorous actresses, pornstars, flailing supermodels and minor TV stars with sentences such as ‘Sylvia taps a match on the rim of the big glass ashtray’, ‘Elizabeth slides a finger down the inside cover of a magazine’ and ending with the, in my own phrase ‘fucking sublime’ line: ‘Veronique angles the retro remote control and leans against the massive fridge’.
5. Point 3 will seem pretty silly to the typical English poetry reader who very much knows Riviere as a popular and rising god of English poetry, as his first book was published by the esteemed publisher Faber & Faber and he is almost certainly more successful than the aforementioned poets/alt-lit folk. Also, there is a chance that alt-lit will often seem pretty silly to the typical English (ideal?) poetry reader too, but that’s another story.
6. Point 5 sort of helps to confirm point 3 and I will now reinforce point 3 further by stating that some of this content first appeared in the very glossy AnOther magazine which means that this poet is very cool as well as being accepted (rightfully) as literary in the British poetry world. He pulls off the neat trick of being popular in lots of places at once and cannot easily be tethered into some kind of Faber house style as proven by this (possibly self-published?) pamphlet and the fact that this is only his second outing since his ’81 Austerities’ debut. He followed that up with a set of poems themed around/taking Kim Kardashian as a kind of totem (if memory serves) that could only be read by a reader requesting a password from the author.
7. ‘I am designed like depthless vinyl’ is a really good line from one of the poems.
8. These writings often hang together via a fairly simple parallelism.
9. There’s an odd blankness throughout that is coldly endearing. A similar feeling to walking around Hoxton, Shoreditch, and increasingly, Bethnal Green in London (for US readers think Williamsburg or something or wherever things have moved to now). This again means that Riviere is very cool and I don’t mean that pejoratively.
10. Music proper noun namechecks: ‘Exile on Mainstreet’, ‘Smashing Pumpkins’. Both in the same poem. Again this means he’s cool, again this isn’t meant as an insult. Bring back cool, I say.
June 12th, 2014 / 12:00 pm