Monthly Archives: April 2014

Some Letters Never Sent by Neil Curry

The conceit of this collection is that it is composed of a series of letters to various correspondents, contemporary and historical, real and fictional. Some are bitter: Curry’s dispatch to Sir John Barrow (1764-1848), for example, acidly catalogues the number of young explorers sent to their deaths by this member of the Admiralty in search of a ‘northwest passage’ through the Arctic. Others, like the one addressed to one ‘Timothy the Tortoise’ owned by by the eighteenth century naturalist Gilbert White, are humorous, finding the poet hoping that said reptile is ‘Under the broad beans perhaps, or if you’re Really lucky and nobody’s noticed as yet, Happily chomping away among the strawberry beds.’

Though this is a densely allusive collection, Curry doesn’t have much truck with the pomposity of ‘literariness’: to Euripides he confides that he ‘couldn’t stand The way that you, and others, had been Classic-ised. It was the beggars bollocks they threatened To rip off, not his vital organs.’ Yet if what unites these poems is a thread of wit, it has quieter moments too: an address to the novelist Angela Carter manages to be at once unflinchingly honest and sad; a letter to the poet’s younger self reflects movingly on what is gained with time, but also with what is lost.

The Beggar & The Hare by Tuomas Kyrö

Smuggled to Finland by a ruthless but oddly bureaucratic criminal organisation, Vatenescu, a Romanian construction worker, is soon put to work as a beggar on the streets of Helsinki. The terms of his contract are punitive: ’75% to me, 25% to you’, as his gangmaster, Yegor Kugar has it; yet an incident involving an unexpected feast and a wounded rabbit puts an end to Vatenescu’s contract, and inadvertently, to Kugar’s as well.

Pursued by both the state and by the criminals that smuggled him, Vatenscu (and his rabbit) find themselves driven across Finland. Yet despite the fact that they are outcasts on the run, somehow their luck always seems to keep them coming out on top, and on their way they encounter restauranteurs, soldiers, environmental activists, magicians, and eventually the president himself. As much an exploration of Finland’s relationship with its neighbours and of the nature of European capitalism as it is a witty and entertaining picaresque, The Beggar & The Hare is an assured and beguilingly-told modern fable.