Bandaged Dreams, Emma FiltnessThe jacket is filled with an abstract mixture of colours, black, red,brown: it looks smoky and swirly. All text is white and left justified. First the title in fairly small white lower case top left. Immediately below, with very little gap is the author's name in smaller italics. The publisher's name is in the bottom left hand corner.

Broken Sleep Books, 2022    £6.99

Durrell with a difference

As the back cover explains, these poems have been created by applying erasure to part of Laurence Durrell’s famous novel Justine. This means every word of 28 slender untitled poems comes from 90 pages of a complex novel in which passion and deception are communicated from different points of view.

Neither pamphlet nor novel offer much chronology or name their protagonist. In the latter, the narrator and his lover (Justine) share this role. In Bandaged Dreams, however, there are no proper nouns, which makes it initially a little more mystifying.

The reader first picks up on the protagonist as a writer: ‘I write to make love’. Later, the voice claims ‘writer, lover, I recover / a sleeping woman in a cheap room’. It looks as if Durrell’s narrator and his Justine (who writes a diary that he discovers) have merged into one.

Like the novel, the poems begin with place, but ‘Babylonian’ is the only hint of where we are. The city is not Alexandria; it is nameless:

night roars quietly
I light a lamp and think —
of iron chains, memory, the city

Tragic love is clearly the central concern of each writer. Indeed the pamphlet title alone makes this clear. Appropriately, the two words ‘bandaged dreams’ also come from Durrell.

Love and torment are intertwined: ‘my mind’s eye shows me / a staggering mistake // the symbolic lovers / androgynous, inverted / the sweet anarchy of the body — / the body sick’.

Dense lines in the poems are full of metaphor and simile. In the penultimate piece, the ‘author’ of a love letter (Justine in Durrell’s novel) is variously described as ‘whore’, ‘wound’, ‘a shallow burden’, ‘nymphomaniac’, ‘verging on Goddess’, ‘rose’, ‘shadow’ and weeping ‘cherub’. Life’s complications are all here in word combinations like ‘a black daffodil morning‘ or ‘lustrous silence’.

The poet’s choice of economical language brings her story skilfully into the twenty-first century. The mood is entirely her own.

Sally Festing