Flarestack, 2005 -  £3.00


This is a lovely book, at times an enchanting one.  None of its poems are anything less than competent; and the finest contain an element of the sacramental in the way they transfigure the everyday. In ‘Emblem’ 

The painted lady turns slowly

on the stamens of the michaelmas daisy.


With her wings upright, closed

she’s a tiny craft, rocked


on a harvest sea. 

By the end of the poem, she is an “autumn leaf” which


…lifts and drifts,


moves the sky to thunder.  Soon

with velvet she’ll polish the stars,


blacken the night, rub out the moon.                  

Note (besides the butterfly lilt of the language) the use of assonance, the way the enjambment of “rocked” launches you into the next line. Susan McCormick has a musical ear and a solid technique. Her lines are often intense, physical, sensuous—almost erotic. Even her more artisan poems contain arresting lines: a woman in hospital is “Trapped in the flicker of a lifetime” while “A juggler is tossing coins./ Her timing is out of kilter” (‘Pace Makers’).

    For her next collection, I’d perhaps like to see this poet tackle subjects outside the safe, immediate range of her experience and memory.  And sometimes her ear and technique doze off, as in ‘Her Pattern’:


                                   …she will

work for my good, till hook hooks

eye at the back of the neck

or the small bulb blows.

 Where are ‘ick’ and ‘uck’?  But her best, I’ll repeat, is very good: 

At night blood is black.  In the forest

a buckled body leaves a trail

like tar that will slowly become

as cold as the night’s turning.

                   (‘Stag Crossing’)                  

Paul Lee