Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Cyanic Pollens, Isabel GalleymoreThe jacket is leafy green, with black lines and smudges suggesting branches and leaves. The title, and the author's name, are in a handwriting style white font, and right justified. The title appears near the top, the author's name (same size, but over two lines) near the bottom.

Guillemot Press, 2020               £6.00

Poetry of transformation

The pressure to look like myself would be, at this point, unbearable.

In the acknowledgements page of this pamphlet-length sequence, Galleymore notes that while ‘some species in the jungle are very much themselves [ ... ] other species are less straightforward’. ‘Names and events in this sequence,’ she adds, ‘resemble something of the latter.’

Throughout the publication, shape-shifting transformations underline different aspects of the rainforest — its extraordinary qualities, and its more sinister ones. Galleymore also explores how such a setting can affect a blurring of the lines between human and animal.

The sequence opens with a thin, squeezed poem of tiny lines. In this pressured space, a ‘flower’

is like the
dangling air
freshener
fixed
to the rear
view mirror

The domestic jars with the natural, tugging at its edges.

Elsewhere, language itself begins to mutate. A riff on ‘Nature’ takes the word through a series of transformations: from ‘Natter’ to ‘Neighbour’, then to ‘Nose hair’.

In one section, the speaker is warned that ‘Papaya’ is ‘a word used by men [ ... ] to refer to a vagina.’ She then dreams of ‘holy men climbing the trees to reach vaginas suspended high in the branches.’

Text is also positioned in such a way as to highlight more unsettling aspects of transformation. For example, a single line of poetry on one page describes how the guide ‘replicates the male’s want-sounds.’ On the facing page, the speaker tells a story of waking up to ‘three small, hard poos’ on her ‘bedside table’ after responding with discomfort to the same guide’s compliment about her appearance. Our sense of the guide as a sexually interested male animal takes on a darker undertone.

Erosion of the line between animal and human is omnipresent here — most strikingly, in a poem about pairs of monogamous birds. The descriptions of the birds and the tourists blur. When the speaker claims that ‘over breakfast, one couple are either ‘arguing’ or ‘flirting’, it is unclear which she’s referring to.

By crafting a poetry of change and transformation, Galleymore creates a vivid picture of the contradictory jungle. ‘Everyone is allowed their own version of the rainforest.’

Isabelle Thompson