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Archway Sonnets, Kate BinghamThe jacket is white with a detailed design in grey, showing lattice work and flowers and buildings, with a blurred impression of movement. The author's name and title are in the top quarter, centred, in bright green caps, author name first. All text is the same size..

New Walk Editions, 2020    £5.00

Ways in

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...

Charlotte Gann