Example poetry

“Unique Experiment” – Poetry Review: The Ox House by Teo Eve

Hannah Walton-Hughes

The Beef House is a collection of imaginative poems by University of Nottingham alumnus Teo Eve, due for publication in July this year. Eve attended the University as a BA English and MA English Studies student, graduating in 2018 and 2020 respectively, and contributed to Impact during his stay there. Penteract Press publishes the collection; the founders and directors of this publishing company are also Nottingham alumni. The collection is described by Eve as a “love letter to the letters of the alphabet”, which attempts to “restore the ancient belief in the inherently magical powers of the written word”. Hannah Walton-Hughes, English student with creative writing, reviews.

The Beef House unlike any book/poetry collection I’ve read before. It’s certainly a tribute to the individual letters of the alphabet, and also to how they all work together. It’s very much like a collection of unique experiments, with different visual choices used for each letter. There are also many links to the original ancient Greek letters/symbols/hieroglyphs, confirmed by the postscript at the end of the anthology, helping to reinforce ideas about the alphabet as something constant.

It looks very much like a collection of unique experiments, with different visual choices used for each letter

The cover itself is intriguing and ancient. The individual letters take center stage, and the half-finished color drawing of an ox immediately introduces a theme that runs through the book: the idea of ​​imperfect thoughts and unconventionality. Despite the name of the collection The Beef House, the actual phrase only appears a few times, but is nonetheless always present.

Structurally, I found it very interesting to see how the letters “A” and “Z” not only dominate the collection by their place in the alphabet, but also by their content. These two poems were my two favorites: “A” introduced the idea of ​​letters as living beings; describing them as “characters on stage” and “26 harmonies”, personifying them in a way that underscores how key they all play a role in our language. ‘Z’, on the other hand, speaks of grammar as ‘rooting us to the ground of the Earth’, and ends with a very conventional line, ‘the end’.

What fascinates me in contradiction to the apparent “foundation” of these letters is Eve’s choice to insert a question mark, and nothing else, on the page immediately after “Y” but before “Z”. This suggests uncertainty and could almost be interpreted as representing another letter that may enter the alphabet in the future! Also, the ending is very ambiguous; it consists of a Greek symbol and an & sign, suggesting that there is more than what is on the page, related to the overall idea of ​​the power of language/writing: it has no no limits.

I really enjoyed how some of the poems tied in a very obvious way to the letter they represented. For example, “B” uses an extremely visually pleasing shape, repeatedly writing out the word “box” to create the shape of a square, and finally ending with the word “beef” at the bottom. Moreover, the letter “Q” is immediately followed by important questions that we can consider about language and speech, such as “When to see again which language is dead?” Each question is marked with the letter “Q”, which interestingly makes us, as readers, think about how much we really know about the English language. Another of my favorite letters is ‘I’: Eve manages to construct an entire poem with words beginning only with ‘I’, and yet somehow manages to make the whole poem make sense and be consistent!

interesting fact of us, as readers, considering what we really know about the English language

Despite this, many poems seem to have no connection with the letter with which they are titled. For example, the letter “D” simply titles a poem written entirely in a different language, with no repetition of the main letter for which it is named. This suggests a much deeper meaning to Eve’s writing.

There is very little punctuation throughout this collection; it creates the sense of a stream of consciousness of the poet. I always like this way of building poetry, and it is very effective in this case. The poem under the letter ‘F’, for example, simply experiments with the different fonts you can write the word ‘Font’ with, with no other deeper meaning apparent, giving the impression that the poem allows for Eve’s interests and emotions. to lead his writing. Complexity does not always lead to accessibility and enjoyment.

I always like this way of building poetry, and it is very effective in this case

There are almost what I would describe as cheeky touches thrown into a few of the poems, such as the letter “K”, which is flipped on its side in the poem, to visually illustrate the sentence above: “a offering of an outstretched hand. In line with what the poet says about poetry encompassing “music” in its general form, Eve chooses to introduce mnemonics in her poem “M”, using the sound “Mmmmm”, to add something buzzing in writing.

Overall I found this to be a very unique collection of poetry, which really brought “personality” and history to the letters of the alphabet that we so often hold for granted. Teo Eve has really created something very original, which challenges the reader and personifies the letters, demonstrating how central they are to our lives, our speech and our writing.

Hannah Walton-Hughes


Image courtesy of Teo Eve. No changes made to this image. Permission to use granted to Impact.

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