“The Illegal Age”

Ellen Hinsey’s “The Illegal Age” is one of those increasingly prevalent books of poetry that seek to blend different structures on the page in order to aid the conveying of message.

Interestingly, when it comes to appreciation, I suspect books such as this one are more dependant than most on how the Reader is ‘feeling’ or disposed at time of reading. For example, I particularly liked the second ‘file’, “Ice”, though suspect there’s little material difference between it and the other two parts of the book.

Do poets play with the structures on the page in order to free themselves from the constraints of ‘typical’ poetic form, or to enhance it? Do they do so in order to free themselves from the limitations of the words themselves perhaps, using layout / white space / lack of space all as tools with which to supplement meaning and interpretation?

As an aside, it was interesting that the finalists of the UK’s National Poetry Competition offered a spread of physical representations: poem as poem, poem as prose, poem printed in landscape etc. I have to say it felt a little as if the judges were trying to ensure they selected something from each category so as not to upset any ‘vested interest’ community, so that they could not be accused of bias or poetic bigotry… I couldn’t help but think of typical participant profiling in any ‘reality TV’ show.

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