Giles Paley-Phillips: The Indiscretions of a Bleeding Heart
Eli Tender Publishing (2007) £2.00.
By Tom Jenks
Linear Hymns, Giles Paley-Phillips' impressive debut, was notable for the intensity of its focus and the consistency of its tone. It dealt with the death of the poet’s mother from leukaemia and explored it’s subject from an innumerable variety of angles, as if Paley-Phillips was compelled to undertake an exhaustive audit of his grief in order to take a tentative step beyond it.
This, his follow up collection, suggests that he has done so. In The Decorator, the poet talks about “…this song called/the revelation of me” and the The Indiscretions of a Bleeding Heart is itself that song. Paradoxically, this song of revelation does not proceed via soul baring, rather by the poet displaying the self assurance to adopt different personae and voices. In Flames Floor he slips easily into the skin of a girl who wears “…her red lips/with her red dress”. In other poems, such as Pull Us Out Diego and Pin Rhino, he takes a step back and takes pleasure in word play and in the employment of language as sound and colour rather than just a vehicle for meaning: “Mackerel lie down, their tails flat/watching out for the cleaver’s threat.” In De Chavez, he sidesteps logic and narrative and creates effect by an accretion of vivid and crisply rendered imagistic couplets: “Like the creases on your face,/I will make a stand/like the sugar coated mouth/that I kiss out loud.”
All of this is not to say, however, that Paley-Phillips has eschewed the clear eyed emotional expression and exploration that characterised his first collection. In In the Queue of Remembrance, we feel that whoever else’s shoes he might be standing in elsewhere, in this poem he is standing in his own as someone taking the first steps in a new relationship: “We count up our things/only 9 items at a time/at the counter of logistics/You and I will take it slow.” Paley-Phillips makes no apology for the occasional difficulty of his subject matter, instead, in About the Author, slyly acknowledging and thereby defusing any criticism: “So here it begins,/another tale of nothingness/narrated by the author/of the bleeding heart brigade”.
Giles Paley-Phillips is much more than a bleeding heart, although no-one who reads him can deny that the heart, sometimes wounded, sometimes joyous, always perceptive, beats at the centre of his poetry. This collection sees him expanding his register and experimenting with new techniques and different modes of expression, but never to the detriment of the integrity and honesty of the work. Dancing is mentioned more than once in these poems and it is as good an analogy as any: a young poet who, having plucked up the courage to step onto the floor has found his rhythm and is now beginning to really express himself.
All proceeds from The Indiscretions of a Bleeding Heart and from Linear Hymns, Giles Paley-Phillips first collection, go to the Leukaemia Research Fund.
For more information, contact Eli Tender Publishing, 7 Selmeston Court, Surrey Road, Seaford, East Sussex, BN25 2NQ or visit either www.gilespaleyphillips.co.uk or www.myspace.com/gilespaleyphillips online.