Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Letters to Rosie, Ross WilsonThe pamphlet is smaller than the usual A5, though not as small as A6. The jacket is crimson, with no images. All text is right justified. The biggest characters are in the title, which is a regular, seriphed font, and yellow, about two inches up from the bottom. Below this, much smaller and in white regular sans serif, the author's name. There is a small puff quote occupying three short lines top right.

Tapsalteerie, 2020, £4.00

Step into a stream of light and warmth

This pamphlet is a physically small thing, not unlike the new life it chronicles. Both have the effect of bringing disproportionate joy to those who encounter them.

Like a young, changing life, these poems will reward revisits when the mind grows weary of the world and needs true, clean freshness that deftly avoids sentimentality.

Moments are what make up a life and this poet gets that. The dedication ‘For Wee Rosie when she’s big’ refers to the poet’s new baby daughter, and Letters to Rosie comprises a sequence of poems beginning with ‘Scan’, when Rosie is nothing more than a ‘Wee bean on a screen’.

The poems are quiet, intimate and loving. We have a real sense of two people building a home together, and the place where they have chosen to do this matters. The name of the town, Cumbernauld, means ‘meeting of the streams’.

Meeting of rivers, yes, and also the couple: their families, glimpsed personal histories, the past and the present. And throughout all this runs a willingness to furnish space for the future, as in ‘Makers’ when the couple are preparing a bedroom for the yet-to-be-born baby:

I carried your cot bed,
flat-packed in a box,
up stairs to the room
I’d painted the day before.

Your Mum and I put it together
like a jigsaw, creating a picture
for your wee character
to play the lead in.

The awareness that a new life changes everything is acknowledged and eagerly awaited. From the premature arrival of the new-born a week before the poet’s own birthday, we witness his awe and joy. The baby’s changes and fleeting expressions are beautifully described. For example, in ‘Shapeshifter’:

You look different everyday
to everybody who looks at you
[…]
depending on who looks in
your ever moving water.

First laughter, first steps, first spoken sounds — all these are noticed like bubbles in an onward-moving stream, as in ‘Shine’ when the poet says ‘I catch what I can with my pen’. He catches it well.

Mary Wight