Smith/Doorstop, 2007 - £3.00  www.poetrybusiness.co.uk/smithdoorstop.aspx

Elspeth Smith’s Wishbone is a collection of usually quite minimalistic poetry. The most frequent mode is that of the vignette or snapshot, often describing a situation, location or object. The amount that’s said—or hinted at—by such a scarcity of words is surely one of the greatest achievements of this pamphlet, and it is accomplished primarily via the enigmatic (and consistent) voice, which retains a quiet weight throughout, along with an uneasy quality of attention. This is especially true of the object poems, and even more so when the poet assumes an interior narration, as in ‘Curtains’:

 

 

We have nothing to show you,

nothing to hide.

Your prying eyes

can turn to us.

Look,

there is nothing to see

now.

 

 

As the poems most often explore an implicit (often dark) underside, there is a certain tendency to rely on props, as in ‘Retreating’ where the “unscented soap/ clung smugly to the basin”, or in the preceding poem, ‘Lights Out’, with its “old sounds of tennis balls” and chestnut trees “spreading over/ small gym-knickered figures”. The effect is a kind of pathetic fallacy, where each natural object contributes to the mood of the poem by taking on a usually more human characteristic—or at least an atmospheric trait granted it by human attentions. But generally this is well balanced with more usual agents—the wonderful-sounding “gym-knickered figures”, for instance.

 

 

Throughout this collection the texts are stark and accessible, but possess a more deep-rooted strength than is at first apparent. The poems are slight but demand rereading—a sign of considerable craftsmanship.

 

 

James Midgley

 

 

 

Young Reader remarks:

 

The book has a beautiful, shiny pink cover with handy fold-in flaps. Inside the poems are printed in clear type on good quality paper. I would be proud to have the book on my shelf. My first impression was that the poems were excellent. There was something about them that was truthful and easy to read. It’s the sort of book you keep. I liked the flow of the words, and especially the pattern in which ‘Party’ was written.