Smith/Doorstop, 2007 - £5.00

Andrea Holland understands all the parts have to cohere to make a complete poem. These pieces are clearly written by someone who loves poetry and has a keen ear for sounds and movement. Whites and greys are allowed to accumulate in telling detail in the title poem, which is told from the viewpoint of a child returned to her mother after a weekend with her father. She witnesses the anger between them, the reluctance of her father to give her up, as well as all the other visual details. The poem builds towards the final lines:

My mother reaches in and I see the white pearl of her earring

like an eye as she lifts me up towards the white sun of her blouse.


The pigeons billow out and up in a grey wave in the wake of the white

car. The man who looks like a ghost at the wheel, takes a white hand-

kerchief from his top pocket and wipes at the window until we are gone.


It’s apparent that not all the poems are autobiographical though.


There’s a short sequence based around dates of issue for a library book that veers close to explaining things twice: “No doubt you’ll return, like a library book lent/ for the duration, like a dog who knows he belongs”. But mostly Borrowed demonstrates both a love of words and the ability to take a personal experience and move it out to the universal. In ‘On hearing a jazz trio play Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana’, (which could perhaps have done with a smarter title) Andrea Holland captures that strangeness of hearing a different treatment of a familiar number (“only they’ve looped it out, slung it like a lasso// round the saddle of the song”) and ends:


it all sounds rather Swedish. The melody’s been pushed

around, an amiable steering as if, left as it was,

it might come to harm, something might go


terribly wrong. It’s so quiet here after the piano

sings hello, hello, hello, hello.


That last “hello”, of course, is usually represented as “how low” and it captures not only that fading away of the song (whichever version) but also the awareness that although the original singer is no longer alive, still there’s space to remember. Overall these poems contain an intelligent grace.


Emma Lee