Heinemann, $16.95 pb, 77 pp
‘Nothing odd will do long’, said Johnson (that great friend of reviewers). If we begin by positing Aland Gould as an odd poet (that is, more than merely eccentric or self-conscious), then whether Johnson is correct about oddness depends on the second half of his observation: ‘Tristram Shandy did not last’. No doubt ABR readers smile at such a sentiment; but if so, then the question becomes whether or not Gould is odd enough.
By some reckonings, Gould has moved away from the port of oddity towards accessibility (the blurb implies this). Gould’s seven collections of verse, four works of fiction, and unknown number of model ships certainly show his interest in making (he is, after all, a poet), and his continued use of stanzaic verse, rhyme and so on is handled with increasing skill and flexibility. It is, of course, not this that makes Mermaid odd or even a little difficult. Any inaccessibility emanates from an almost ‘Jamesian’ manner (another oddity which did not last) in which the poems rigorously fail to give up what it is they hint at offering. ‘Sea Ballad’ suggests this: