Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Anastasia, Look in the Mirror, Carly Brown

Stewed Rhubarb, 2020     £5.99

The exuberance of colour

I’m a big fan of the Scottish Colourists. A Cadell print hangs on my living room wall. I enjoy ekphrastic poetry too, and recently participated in a virtual Wirral Poetry festival workshop ‘In the Gallery’ — so Brown’s sensual pamphlet engaged me right away.

The poem ‘These Things’ adopts Samual Peploe’s voice as he considers family influences and the places and objects in his life. The lines focus on both shapes and patterns and on the sloshing qualities of ‘pavements sinking into liquid’. I’m viewing perspective and paint though his eyes. Texture and colour sing: ‘tulips rang out yellow’; boxes fill with ‘silk ties’; keys possess ‘jagged teeth’; while the wynds are paved with ‘loose cobbles smeared with rain water’.

Peploe’s painting of the Luxembourg Gardens inspires the intriguing poem ‘French’. It vibrates with exciting verbs. French ‘rasps like cigarette throats after boozy nightclubs’. Brown plays with the exercise of learning the language, ‘tacking endings onto verbs like hats’. The act of speech is a delicious experience, spent ‘all days with our mouths around vowels’. Words drop ‘in your palm like chocolats’. And yet, the narrator is silenced by the ‘flamboyant trees and ‘the grass lit by flowers’. All sways as in a dream world, as disorientating as learning French. This is a poem of lingering scent and movement.

Finally, Francis Cadell’s painting ‘Iona Croft’ provides the stimulus for ‘The House’, a strong painterly poem. Lines ooze powerful colours as if a brush has layered paint uninhibited by any rules. There’s a physicality in the descriptions, a joy of nature:

the sun melted onto the roof
cracked open like an egg 

There are ‘falling reds’, ‘seeping browns’ and ‘blurring tans’; ‘A leaking, a splattering’. I sense that some anonymous influence has ‘decided to unstop the bottle’ of colours to create a paradise:

in that little white house
where nothing ever settles
and nothing ever hardens 

Maggie Mackay