Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

The sound / of water / that’s all // just water / that’s enough,
       Mark The jacket is a mid shade of blue. The title, in black caps, is set out as five lines of a poem in two stanzas. These are left-justified and occupy about a third of the total space. The author's name in very small lower case letters is left justified in the bottom corner. The space to the right of the text and below the bottom line of the poem features a graphical illustration. Top right a large roughly filled grey circle. Below the text two long blackish strings that loop across the cover. One ends in a smaller circle, like a ballon. The other loops itself into circles like loose ribbon.Saunders

Self-published, 2015  £6.00 Available from https://katetemple.bigcartel.com

Alone or lonely?

We’re all alone and sometimes we’re lonely and, in my opinion, we slide back and forth. Mark Saunders, theatre-maker, artist, writer, and hiker of mountains and pathways in Scotland and abroad, explores this point of interest — as he explores the physical landscape. The preface shares his intention to fill several pamphlets with ‘thoughts, feelings, memories’. The total number of untitled entries could be the number of Munros in Scotland that he’s climbed: 284. This publication contains the first hundred short poems.

The first entry is brimming with anticipation: ‘The bus slides through the mountains / holding them at bay.’ In #6, we see the author organised with a practical checklist:

Map – check
Compass – check
Whistle – check

Then some days later, in #16, he appears invulnerable:

Wrapped in solitude
like a second skin
protecting me
from loneliness

He puts the important question to a shepherd in #17:

Don’t you get lonely?
I once asked a shepherd.
No, he said, there are always
people in my head

During his travels, Saunders records a myriad of feelings and experiences: self-sufficiency; soul-searching; slog; euphoria. But eventually  he admits that being out there can be ‘hellishly lonely’ (#26). That’s when you find yourself repairing conversations you wish you’d handled differently and preparing ones that haven’t happened yet. Saunders calls it ‘clearing the air’. Out in the great fresh air, I hope it was healing.

I liked the mixture of memories and encounters: the poet’s grandparents’ constitutionals; hitch-hiking a lift on a rope of a stranger; the woman who rescued a dog in her backpack; the man with vertigo held up by two friends, one on each side, like a drunk. How lonely was that lost dog? How alone that man with his terror!

With few words, pithy dialogue, slivers of humour, I am there.

Candyce Lange