Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

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Vita Brevis, MaitreyabandhuThe jacket is orange with an intrricate design in black. All of, the design and the title and author's name looks hand-drawn in a black felt pen with thin line. There is a scribbly edging right round the edge of the jacket. INside this there is a square design in the bottom two thirds, a small blacker square inside a much larger square, with diagonal lines going out dividing the outer area into eight pieces. The text is in the top third and takes up most of the available space. It is underlines with a thin wiggly line and is all in lower case, but with capitals as first letters.

Templar Poetry, 2012             £4.50

Images & imaginings

There’s something magical about mist, the way it hides things, brings a lull, and allows the imagination to work.

In ‘Hill Town’, the town ‘should have / views but the sea mist blocks them off’, leaving room for imaginings. It’s strange how this solid prose poem, almost square on the page, can have such an air of mystery.

A different kind of mist appears in the title poem, ‘Vita Brevis’:

An evening mist, the day
          might not have happened —

A delicious stillness follows:

The light flared
           like an annunciation
of tissue paper and goat bells,
          then the valley disappeared.

The light flaring, the valley disappearing — this takes my breath, which seems right when I reach the last lines of the poem.

I’m equally fascinated by the short prose poem ‘The Settlement’. It’s sensory, full of images, and needs to be read whole. In the night, lights from torches are ‘moving angles in the mist’. It closes with the image of ‘three candles in a row casting yellow reflections on the parquet’.

‘The Castle’, another solid prose poem, is so full of images it’s filmic. From ‘the glimpse of distant mountains’ at the start, you’re on a journey. When you reach the end of the poem, you find ‘you’re still a long way from the castle’. How I love this poem and this ending!

But, ‘Umbrian Summer’ is my favourite. I love its title, the sound of it, and how the poem looks on the page — its shape, the lines, the stanza patterns, the repetitive patterning in the words, like here in these opening lines:

          Even though the wind
was warm and we slept
          with the window open

There are strong painterly images in the next few lines:

          next day
there were beech leaves
          on the swimming pool —

          chrome yellow
on a zone of blue,
          like something Japanese.

Then the images soften, we see things gently, and I’m drawn to the poet’s painterly use of light and shade:

          The sun
had seemed to shine
          through lemonade —

          it lingered
on the other hill and made
          the shadows gentler.

There are four more sensory verses. The whole has an airy feel.

I find it absolutely mesmerising.

Enid Lee