Trial by Scar, Deborah TurnbullThe cover is pale orange and has a wallpaper stle design of a darker orange wiggly line that occurs in a pattern. The lettering is black and left justified. The author's name first, fairly small lowercase. Below this, in large black italics, comes the pamphlet title, with one word to each line. The Lorgnette logo (a little lorgnette) appears small at the foot of the jacket.

Eyewear Publishing, Lorgnette Series, 2017

Take a metaphor and run

I like a poet who can take a metaphor and run with it. But even that statement is a metaphor, and it doesn’t capture the subtlety I have in mind. There’s a way of taking a metaphor, or an idea that could be a metaphor, that leads to long thought about the sense in which that metaphor might be read.

The poem ‘Impact’ in this collection is prefaced by a quotation from Nigel Farage (‘The EU’s finished, the EU is dead.’) In fact, without this epigraph, the rest of the poem could be read literally. It describes the impact of a bullet: ‘Entry wounds are clean and tidy’, and goes on to reflect that ‘There must be a high chance of surviving / such a minuscule hole in the head’. The poem tidies up the wound: ‘Barely any mess made, barely any blood spilt.’

Then the final stanza that drives the message home. The poet could so easily have begun ‘But’ – but she’s more skilful than that:

It’s the hard exit you’ve got to watch;
the back of the head blown wide,
its mash-for-brains chaos. The spatter.

I relish her ability to make me think, to go over and over what is buried in facile use of language (‘The EU is dead’).

The poem ‘Terms’ picks up a series of words and what they mean: literally. But the heart of the poem is in what is not said. The words are: commute, home, work, tannoy, fatality, track, passenger. Each of these is examined inside a two-line stanza, of which there are seven.

If it is read as a sonnet, the ‘turn’ would come with the explanation of the word ‘track’, though the point where the reader infers what the poem is ‘about’ comes in the preceding couplet:

Fatality, meaning an occurrence of death,
also meaning helplessness in the face of fate.

But the ‘volta’ line (line 9) breaks – in every sense – on the word ‘beaten’:

Track meaning rough path, typically beaten
by use, or constructed.

There is a particular skill in laying down words on the page and allowing the reader to draw her own inferences. This poet has it.

Helena Nelson