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Hotel Mastbosch - James Sheard

Review by Mario Petrucci

What if language evolves like geology, with words the intractable material that builds, shifts and fractures under the immense pressure of experience? If so, this quarter shows rich response to the restrictive tectonics of the pamphlet form. Rupert Loydell's crystallographic stanzas (Endlessly Divisible) glitter with facets, as if slippery seams of graphite were being pressed into diamond at vast depths. The Last Hour of Sleep (Naomi Jaffa) seems constantly about to erupt into a book-length collection, pushing its 32 up-to-the-hilt pages of sly prose-poem rhythms hard against the constraint. Meanwhile, Hotel Mastbosch wells darkly beneath its crust, responsive to the subterranean forces of history that shear and mould the European psyche.

Sheard's gritty lyricism is "heavy with oils", laden with unsettling aromatics; yet it always floats easily on the ear. From pungent opening ("Old money smells of civet") to palled close, these poems are quietly superheated, forever on the point of ignition. Although far from transparent, his black gold often oozes surprisingly close to the surface, lubricating some hard secret further down. Stay with him, "digging/ knuckledeep in my roots/ and finding stone." Disarmingly, this press issues just one pamphlet a year. Moreover, Hotel Mastbosch charges only £2.50 per guest. Fear not. It's about as far from Fawlty Towers as you can get.


copyright mario petrucci 2001