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Before and After, Mary ThomsonThe jacket holds a multicoloured abstract design in a series of tiny rectangles. The colour is broadly orange/red to the left, moving through green/yellow in the middle, towards white on the right hand side and right hand corner. The title is in small black caps on the white area, right justified and in the bottom quarter of the jacket. The author's name, in even smaller black caps, is similarly placed just below this.

Self publication, 2019*

Memories are made of this

This pamphlet is a collection of thoughts and memories, many generated by the simpler things that occur in everyday life. From the opening piece (‘Knitting a Poem’) to the concluding epilogue, we observe the poet become transfixed on a memory and share it with us.

‘Tenderness’, for example, takes us through the process of ironing a shirt, but there’s love in there, ‘an empty shirt waiting for his arms’. In two other poems, however, we look back at the ending of a previous relationship with a strange sense of both relief and sadness, maybe even inevitability.

Two further pieces describe paintings from the First World War, but they are more than just an exercise in ekphrasis. We are told the stories behind the poems, as the poet sees them.

My favourite is ‘Singing into being’, a pantoum about the use of music to recapture memories. ‘When speaking is hard, singing is easy’ is the summation, particularly appropriate when taken in the context of dealing with dementia.

The final poem before the epilogue is ‘Autumn’. It celebrates a life well-lived, still enjoyed, and sustained by those memories, with a quiet acknowledgment of the winter to come.

The epilogue itself comes across as more like an encore: four poems inspired by Mary’s mother’s diaries. She writes, ‘my knowledge of her has been expanded’.

I share that conclusion. I defy anyone to read Before and After and not allow themselves to be transported back to a warmer place.

Derek Parkes

*Contact author for copies via FB link

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