Announce This, Lauren Pope
Templar Press, 2017 £6.00
Abroad and home
This is a collection of poems featuring bold, clear images and big subject matter — sex, death and birth — set in different countries. One way to read it would be to see it as an exploration of those big themes through a keenly felt and sensuously observed geographical exploration.
In the first few poems, we’re considering sex and gender-based power in Italy:
I don’t like the way you’re holding that fig,
the way it unsettles this moment, and others to come,
so that now, when your hand moves to my lower back
This is followed by sex and death, perhaps in Kew:
[. . . ]
the blossom opened,
raised its head
Then there’s death in Pocatello —
‘Someday will I die?’
‘Yes, someday you will.’
‘That will be sad.’
(‘My sister’s epiphany’)
— and birth in Texas —
The day the gringa
gave birth to their daughter
he drank whiskey from a stranger’s flask
on the back of a bus
from El Salvador to Texas.
This bold spirit is kept up throughout the pamphlet, giving the sense of a questing attention lightly covering much philosophical and geographical ground.
But there are domestic pleasures, too. There are dramatic episodes in ‘Confessional’: the narrator claims to have stolen a tank of nitrous oxide and talks about the ‘cochineal trail’ of blood from a friend’s nosebleed. But there is something intimate and convincing and appealingly direct in the decision she makes not to push over the ‘him’ (a lover?) arriving drunkenly in her doorway because she fears his
the Fired Earth encaustic tiles
in our doorway
but I love those tiles
(we lived on tinned tomatoes on toast
and cooking wine
last winter to pay for them)
In the same poem, the narrator says her ‘honesty’ is ‘only just beginning’ but it comes across straight and true in her love for those tiles, adventuress though she is (or at least as the later part of the poem portrays her).