the Very Selected, Michael LaskeyThe A5 jacket is white. Near the top, very small, the words 'the' (in super script) and then 'Very Selected' in red font. Then much bigger on its own line Michael, in an italic swashy font. Below this and slightly indented LASKEY in very large lower case. The author's name is in black. In the bottom half, a photograph of an old projector with two reels for playing back film (this connects with one of the poems inside). The publisher name is bottom right in very pale grey.

Smith/Doorstop, 2017      £7.50

Moments in time

This pamphlet gathers up some of Michael Laskey’s poems from past collections and brings them neatly together, creating something rather special.

The image on the cover reflects what’s found within — a trove of moments captured over time, a lovely mix of the real, the imagined, the ethereal and the deep. Here are glimpses of some.

The opening poem, ‘Between Two Lit Rooms’, captures a short walk taken in a break from routine:

                         One January night.
Such space around you, such plenty:
a good fifteen minutes walking

between two lit rooms, the split halves
of your life, the future, the past.

Voice and tense invite us ‘out into the open dark’, and sensory imagery in the surrounding lines takes us there. (It is the voice that keeps drawing me back to these poems.)

‘Home Movies’ replays a parents’ wedding captured on film in reverse — time sucked backwards by the rewinding projector — bringing laughs (at first).

‘Picking Raspberries with My Mother’ reminds me, in a lovely mothers-and-sons way, of Seamus Heaney peeling potatoes with his mother. Here, there’s a gentleness, no fuss, just a mother who ‘won’t be pressed’ — ‘Let’s not think about it, she shudders’.  This is a lovely poem!

Near the end of ‘Driving Home’, on a dark journey you really don’t want to be on (unlike the walk above), these images make me smile:

The streets are hollow, brightly lit.
A stray dog cocks a leg and sniffs
along a fence. A couple kiss
persistently. A street-lamp blinks.

I particularly like ‘persistently’, and the way the repetitive patterning in the line-endings above is picked up by the ‘hot metal ticks’ of a cooling engine further down.

In ‘A Breath’, the penultimate poem, a fleeting moment has a lingering effect. This time it’s ‘the briefest touch’, just ‘a breath of a breeze / through the window’. It has an otherness about it, as does the closing poem, ‘Weighing the Present’:

For an instant he was alive
or I had died, though I knew
neither could be true and pressed on

to the post office past my friend
with the present that needed weighing

Enid Lee