Holding On, Belinda RimmerThe jacket is white with a colourful section designed to look a little like a notice board with various things pinned onto it, scraps of paper, some in handwriting, and a black and white picture of a little girl wearing a short dress and short white socks. The child is outlined and the outline of her head stretches above the noticeboard. The author's name is centred in red caps at the top of the jacket and the title is in the same colour and size of caps at the bottom.

New Walk Editions, 2021     £5.00

What is not said

This pamphlet contains two poems written for or 'after' Eleanor Farjeon. The second of these ends

waiting to court the grass with kisses,
to drink rain, to be

on the other side of everything.

That final line is, I think, perhaps the finest description of Belinda Rimmer’s observational poems, but these aren’t distant observations, these are up close and personal, often brutally so, with details layered on. Even so it’s what we are not seeing that makes these poems work so well.

The first poem, ‘Circa 1979’ (which details a rape and the feeling of disembodiment during it) is a powerful example of this feeling of being ‘on the other side of everything’. The second stanza demonstrates some of the details picked out by the victim of a man who ‘picked you / off the dance floor, except he hadn’t / walked you home.’

You remember
a cluster of leaves, autumn,
and Kit Kat wrappers

flickering red/silver.

The Kit Kat wrappers are mentioned three times in the poem and, while it seems an unusual thing to focus on, by the time we get to the final mention the effect is magnified a million-fold. I won’t spoil the ending by quoting it, but it will knock you backwards.

Another example of detail deliberately omitted is in ‘Missing Flowers’, a poem ‘after’ Edward Hopper’s Room In New York (1932). It is as though the poet is holding this painting in mind, while building detail onto it and extrapolating out with imagined details:

Her husband doesn’t ask
where his bouquet has gone.

She doesn’t tell him —
thrown into a bin.

How about that for an opening — the detail left out is astonishing, but the story is intriguing. Why has she thrown out the flowers, what’s he done? Has he done anything? Again, I don’t want to spoil the ending, but it’s a good one.

These are just two examples, but every poem here describes women who are ‘damaged but defiant’, as David Clarke’s blurb notes. I want to spend longer with these women and read more of Belinda Rimmer’s work because of this pamphlet.

Mat Riches