I had some very slight concerns, Susannah DickeyThe pamphlet is a bright mustardy yellow, A5 in size. All print is quite and fairly small and centred. First the title of the pampphlet in italic case, then below this the name of the author in small caps. At the bottom of the jacket there is a pubisher's logo (a ship) inside a white circle.

The Lifeboat, 2017  £6.50

Taking up space in the world

Whether it’s with a movie, a song, or a poem, you know at a gut level when you’re experiencing something that will stick with you. It’s a rare joy to find art this surprising and undeniable. No matter how many times I return to the pamphlet, it has the same potent effect.

In the opening poem (‘It’s easy to think someone’s beautiful once they are dead’) characters are on a mission to make strangers look at photo albums of people who have died. The motivation is never explicitly stated. To delay the second death of being forgotten? To force others to acknowledge impermanence? I’m not sure if the answer is important — the strange method of reaching out seems to be led more by compulsion than a desire for connection.

Each poem in the collection deals with the revealing or concealing of self, driven at once by fear and fixation. In one poem the speaker is unable to stop telling people about personal secrets, in another unable to stop apologising:

I apologise for my apologies. I apologise for being
so difficult to love. With every moment I’m convinced you are in the process of
unloving me. I apologise to try and slow the process down.

           [‘When you make a child apologise are you teaching them to lie?’]

Being so grounded in the daily human experience of loneliness and doubt, the surreal elements throughout feel as true as anything. It seems perfectly natural in these worlds that people can share a heart for intermittent periods of time due to an organ shortage, or (in ‘Xenomelia’) ‘visit the home of a man who is recently deceased’:

I tell him my teeth have been feeling wrong in my head
lately. I’ve had thoughts of breaking them with
hammers, putting my fingers to my gums and feeling them
come away in brown threads
like the flesh of overripe bananas.

This uneasiness with being a person, alternately feeling like not enough or too much, comes to a head in the last line of the last poem:

I would willingly stop existing if it meant you would always be okay

James O’Leary