Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Short and the Short of It

Just to be contrary, the first post proper isn't about poetry at all. It's about Tania Hershman's fictions My Mother Was an Upright Piano. Here it is...

Tania Hershman, My Mother Was an Upright Piano,  Bristol: Tangent, 2012
I know Tania through a class I attended at the Poetry School in Bristol. We'd chat in the breaks between poetry lessons and on the poetry playground. Sometimes also in the pub afterwards, just like proper school.

Thursday night this week, she launched this book, her second collection. It's just come out with Bristol's dynamic Tangent Books, a small operation which really has an eye for the aesthetics of book production. Even a Kindle-lover like me has to admit that they make their books look and feel very special.

Tania works in a genre I've never really read before, the very short story or 'flash fiction'. So, I'm sceptical. I like poetry, I write poetry - that's the short form for me. Prose does the long haul, the plot, the character development. Poetry crystallizes, captures the essence.

But, apparently, prose can do that too. What's more, Tania Hershman's prose does it extremely well. It's a kind of poetic prose, a heightened prose - but somehow not prose poetry. She's interested in the things unsaid, the gap between desire and fulfilment, things we leave hanging in the air. That's where these short pieces work best. She conjures a situation - sometimes commonplace, sometimes surreal - then leaves us to imagine the hows, the whys and the what-nexts.

From hanging around at Tania's launch, I get the impression that there is quite a community of writers out there working with these short prose forms, writing - like many good poetry people - under the radar of our novel-obsessed literary culture. I feel like I want to discover more after reading this. Maybe someone can make some suggestions.

It looks like Tania's own on-line journal, The Short Review, will be a good place to start. And she has a good blog, too.

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