I first became aware of Martin Stannard's poetry in the late 90`s, when he read at an Exe Lit event, during a new (but unsurprisingly short-lived) Exeter city poetry festival initially devised by Rupert Loydell. There was a meeting of poets at the then Arts Centre (now The Phoenix) to discuss who we would like to see read. I didn’t know who Martin Stannard was and didn’t suggest him as a reader. Joe Soap`s Canoe had slid right past me while I was experimenting with sonnets…
I first became aware that I rated Martin Stannard's poetry once I bought his pamphlet `Easter`. I fell for the way the Easter poems are able to shift in a few lines between comedy and sorrow, even fear (though never explicit), making the experience one of recognition; there`s the constant rolling tide of human thought, and human be-ing; loving and vulnerability. And a lot of irrepressible laughter.
Martin's work first appealed to me because it was conversational a la Coleridge, (New) Romantic, with an utterly modern sensibility that often made me laugh aloud at the obvious joy of creative play the poems encompass. The poems were and still are chatty, smart, wistful, funny, rounded out with a crafted seriousness. And they continue to challenge written expressions of consciousness and poetic forms, where thoughts are a bubbling pot of light/dark/happy/sad. A funny poignant wordy amalgam. Maybe even a game.
Martin's poetry tends to grasp some ineffable quality about what it is to be sentient, and seemingly effortlessly, which is the core of my fandom or whatever it is; the style points to a genuine delight in what this poet`s brain can do, which acknowledges the ludicrousness, gorgeousness, joy and grimness of living, all the while sitting next to the reader/listener on the same roller coaster. That's quite a complex stunt to pull off. And it's very generous.
work upholds a particular ‘faith in poetry’, and debate about what poetry is,
was, might or can be is a large part of the Stannard-as-reviewer phenomenon. I’ve
always envied and enjoyed his poetry-faith however Gonzo it seems at times.
I've read a great deal of Martin Stannard's poems and reviews, and revel in his straight-talking, unfussy, quite often grumpy style. His poems stay with me, like curious, difficult friends you want to both guffaw with and reprimand for their sauce. I love the constant experimenting with form, but whatever, the work is always recognisably Stannard-ish. He's funny. He's deadly serious. I dunno how he does that.
Happy Birthday Martin Stannard and hooray for you.
Copyright © Sandra Tappenden, 2022