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Stephen Bone’s ‘In The Cinema’


In the cinema by Stephen Bone

I wanted to say how much I’ve enjoyed Stephen Bone‘s first collection, In The Cinema, just out from Playdead Press.

Moving images, set pieces and numerous characters play out through the book, as the poems go back and forth between childhood recollections, reflections on relationships (both the long-term kind and fleeting encounters), and the more recent past. Not new territory, perhaps, but many of these poems have a sparseness and simplicity that I found very compelling.

The title poem, although it appears in the middle of the book, is the shortest, but it encapsulates so many of the themes – the recollection (or replaying) of stories with known or unknown endings, glimpses/reminders of another era … disappointment, the passing of time, acceptance.

Your whispered
words silently
replay themselves –

don’t tell me how it ends
don’t spoil it for me.

(‘In The Cinema’)

The poet picks over every detail almost like an archaeologist, with care, precision and wonderment. There’s a strong sense of touch and the physical – Reluctantly, / a child braced for medicine I open up / to be fed a scoop of decay  (‘Medlars’)  and in ‘Windfall’ – I tidy your bottles, touch your face. Tidy them again. / I pour water, wind your watch. 

There are character portraits of people at their work – a pedicurist,  a hairdresser tending in silence to an elderly man ‘white hair falling from him like ash’ (‘Ash’), and a series of gentle tableaux where we’re looking in from the outside, often to a soundtrack of off-stage music or something being whispered that we can’t quite make out.

In the final poem (‘Voice-over’) a character from the past talks back from a photo, breaking the ‘fourth wall’, as if creating a kind of release or closure. A suitably cinematic effect?

Inevitably, not every poem in this collection worked for me. But overall I was intrigued and moved; there were many beautiful moments.  I found some of the most understated poems the most heart-breaking  – ‘Windfall’, ‘Pre-emptive’ and ‘Doreen’s Bath’ in particular come to mind – and the poignancy of the images stayed with me.

In The Cinema by Stephen Bone, £7.99 from Playdead Press.

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  1. Thanks for pointing out this book, Robin, and I really enjoyed your review. Stephen is someone who sent work to And Other Poems and I was always very impressed and interested in his work. Thanks for the recommendation.

  2. charlottegann charlottegann

    Great review, Robin.

  3. […] in various journals in the UK and US, most recently in Ink, Sweat & Tears. His debut collection In The Cinema (2014), was published by Play Dead Press and can be purchased online […]

  4. […] of my favourite things yellow (eg Doris Day’s hair). I’m looking forward to seeing Stephen Bone there too, and I know he’s famous for taking the colour theme very […]

  5. […] including many of the Lewes literati, plus Stephen Bone, a brilliant supporter of the press (read Robin’s review of his collection ‘In the Cinema’), and Roy Marshall who was there partly to get Martin home before the witching […]

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Robin Houghton 2021