Archway Sonnets, Kate Bingham
New Walk Editions, 2020 £5.00
These Archway Sonnets are, themselves, rather like archways. Each untitled poem’s opening is intriguing and welcoming: a good combination. They draw me in.
The first sonnet, on page 5 — with its critical comma after that ‘Over’ (which of course changes everything) — sets the pace, a pace which is all about attention to detail:
Over, the irises I must have passed
almost every day of their flowering
Many don’t give their subject away in the first few lines. Page 6, for instance, starts:
Not wet or warm or even very clean,
all it can do is flop together, arms
and legs tied-up, like something glad to be still
It’s a riddle — like the ‘it’ it describes. I am pulled in.
Others are seemingly more direct immediately — with their lists of nouns: ‘A mattress, a fridge, a cardboard pizza box’, starts page 8. We know just where we are — and that’s equally compelling and refreshing. (I’m also further drawn as I happened to live at one time in Archway.) Here’s the start of page 16:
A row of ground-floor flats with gardens not
worth bothering with — room for a couple of chairs,
a barbecue, a bike, a pile of bricks
Or how about this, on page 26. It’s beautifully direct:
Someone sat next to me at Leicester Square —
jeans, a canvas jacket with a zip
with brave new world embossed on its brown tag
and brave new world, again, along the seam
That repetition really works, for me. I read the lettering along the seam.
Here, to close, are two of my favourite openings. This, on page 28:
I love the even grey this bit of London
at this time of year this time of day
agrees to go along with
And finally, from page 9, a picture I know I won’t forget:
Someone spilled a litre of paint at the bus stop,
scraped what they could and hopped on a 43
This could almost have been me. I smile, and definitely read on...