the Very Selected, Michael Laskey
Smith/Doorstop, 2017 £7.50
Moments in time
This pamphlet gathers up some of Michael Laskey’s poems from past collections and brings them neatly together, creating something rather special.
The image on the cover reflects what’s found within — a trove of moments captured over time, a lovely mix of the real, the imagined, the ethereal and the deep. Here are glimpses of some.
The opening poem, ‘Between Two Lit Rooms’, captures a short walk taken in a break from routine:
One January night.
Such space around you, such plenty:
a good fifteen minutes walking
between two lit rooms, the split halves
of your life, the future, the past.
Voice and tense invite us ‘out into the open dark’, and sensory imagery in the surrounding lines takes us there. (It is the voice that keeps drawing me back to these poems.)
‘Home Movies’ replays a parents’ wedding captured on film in reverse — time sucked backwards by the rewinding projector — bringing laughs (at first).
‘Picking Raspberries with My Mother’ reminds me, in a lovely mothers-and-sons way, of Seamus Heaney peeling potatoes with his mother. Here, there’s a gentleness, no fuss, just a mother who ‘won’t be pressed’ — ‘Let’s not think about it, she shudders’. This is a lovely poem!
Near the end of ‘Driving Home’, on a dark journey you really don’t want to be on (unlike the walk above), these images make me smile:
The streets are hollow, brightly lit.
A stray dog cocks a leg and sniffs
along a fence. A couple kiss
persistently. A street-lamp blinks.
I particularly like ‘persistently’, and the way the repetitive patterning in the line-endings above is picked up by the ‘hot metal ticks’ of a cooling engine further down.
In ‘A Breath’, the penultimate poem, a fleeting moment has a lingering effect. This time it’s ‘the briefest touch’, just ‘a breath of a breeze / through the window’. It has an otherness about it, as does the closing poem, ‘Weighing the Present’:
For an instant he was alive
or I had died, though I knew
neither could be true and pressed on
to the post office past my friend
with the present that needed weighing