There Will Be Dancing, Kemal Houghton
Red Squirrel Press, 2020 £6.00
In the gaps
In many ways these poems outline a very recognisable world; at the same time they trace what’s strange and beautiful by highlighting details that aren’t so often drawn: the water all around us, the paths that lead who knows where, the music and seasons that swirl between.
‘Tougher than Belfast steel,’ the water that fills ‘Every Drop’ is also ‘the better part of you’. And it’s here again in ‘Offa’s Dyke Path: In Mist’, where ‘We slide in the wetness, feel / the fall of the earth beneath us.’
As well as water, paths snake through and beyond many of these poems. In ‘Offa’s Dyke Path: Horizons’, the form on the page itself snakes
to a vanishing point far,
I like the poem ‘Translation’:
At the top
of the pass we stop, leave the car
and follow a fox’s footprints
And music too flows through these pages. The poem ‘Music’ gets inside the music of engines, as does its protagonist, uncannily: ‘He was small enough / to climb into spaces / that other men could never reach’. There the poem describes
the fine tuning
with feelers and the subtle flinch
of tiny screws coaxing
some sullen block
And there’s light too, of course. ‘The purpose of this morning,’ he writes in ‘A Sense of Purpose’, ‘is to let the sun / rise high / above this building / and drag its shadow / from one side / to the other.’
Some of these in-betweens are dark. So, ‘Doing the Cards’ at Christmas notices ‘the pages fill with scratching out’; and ‘The Darkenings’ personify
dark matter forms who occupy
the shadows. At first you will not
notice them standing next to you
at the station or by the bar.
But, whether gazing through ‘X-Ray Specs’, and gleaning only ‘the tarmac beneath / or the wallpaper behind’, or tracking ‘The Time Fairy’, who drips time ‘into / the waiting hours / when we are most desolate / and wanting’, this poet seems to have a knack for noticing, and celebrating, what goes on in the gaps.