Navigations, Nancy Campbell
HappenStance Press, 2020 £5.00
Poetry and waterways — how lovely! Navigations is about more than this though, it’s about life, finding one’s way, keeping one’s course.
I’m drawn to the poems that bring me close to the water (I had dreams of kayaking in a sheltered bay, but have left it a bit late). In ‘Costa da Morte’, I love the imagery that comes as a kayaker
gently pushes off — and becomes a water insect
going lickety-split up the cut, whirligig arms twirling
his battered paddle, blades scooping and sprinkling
as the bow waves rock from towpath to bank.
This is framed by a journey, another time and place, ‘on that unholy coast / in nightmare winds’.
I usually avoid shaped poems, but the long first line in ‘Safety Briefing’ pulls me in: ‘This slow current won’t capsize a kayak, but watch for the surge when the lock gates open’. A space in the shape of the front of a kayak cuts into the text and draws the eye to this:
Be alert. Correct any small slip
with a twist of your hips —
you’ll be surprised
just how far
you can tip
How I like the sound and look of all those ‘i’s, the way the poem lets me imagine that it’s me in the kayak from the start, and has me holding my breath at the imagined roll near the end.
Then there’s the lure of the river in ‘Michel’: ‘He has an apartment in the centre of the city but all he keeps / in it is a washing machine. Instead he sleeps down by the river / in a mobile home in which everything is very small.’ Thoughts of the river, a few lines down, bring an air of relaxation: ‘We go out often in boats. He / teaches me the name of the trees growing along the river, and / I forget them. He explains the names of each of the bridges, and / I remember them’.
There’s much more going on in this richly solid prose poem. It needs to be read whole.