Honeycomb, M. R. Peacocke

HappenStance, 2018  £5.00

A master of her craft

M. R. Peacocke demonstrates not only remarkable skill in Honeycomb, but also striking freshness. The writer's career spans decades, but she isn’t just churning out the same old stuff. The poems are intense examinations, digging deeply into sensitive themes without faltering.

The lived experience of growing older is not dismissed. Rather, all the frailty, frustration and grief of ageing and of accepting death — that of others as well as her own — is observed from every angle. None of the writing feels heavy-handed. There’s always an element of cleverness or surprise. She is a poet who really enjoys words. She can take old subjects — snow, the moon — and delight the reader with a new way of noticing them. As in ‘Late’:

Water was slacking into runnels
from drifts and pitted snowbacks,
dripping from the gutter and ragged
icicle fringes […]

waiting in ledger curds and bluffs
to bumble into soft explosions.

And ‘Lunar’:

Moon doesn’t read much […]

leaning becalmed in a lunar dawdle
(doesn’t she know it’s morning already?)

There is poignancy here to the explorations of physical decline associated with ageing. It’s wonderful to see these difficult themes, so often belittled or ignored in our society, given their due weight of attention. Such as in ‘Running’, where the poet speaks to her own body:

and if I say, Do you remember running?
it pauses, puzzled.

A sense of saying goodbye to the world runs through the whole publication, just as the narrator has already said goodbye to others (in ‘Taking Leave’):

And it’s like that, people leave,
sooner than they thought

Each poem is interwoven with subtle rhymes, rhythm, and sounds to savour like boiled sweets. It’s Peacocke’s artistry that allows the reader to face the reality of mortality; to sit for a while and consider it. It is quietly tremendous.

Zannah Kearns