Houses and Homes Forever: Poems of Where We Live,
Robin Helweg-Larsen (ed.)
Sampson Low, Potcake Chapbooks, 2020 £2.60
A place to play and a place to miss, and rhyme to drive it home
The blurb of this tiny anthology of twelve poets announces its stance on poetic form. These poems, it tells us, ‘are all formal’. They
are memorable in part because they rhyme and scan, as all truly memorable poetry does.
While we may not agree that all memorable poetry need rhyme, it’s certainly true that the form of these poems lends itself well to the subject matter.
I’d suggest there are two things that make a house not just a house, but a home. For me, home’s a place we can play, and a place we can miss. Rhyme is perfect for capturing both aspects.
‘Lovejoy Street’, for example, by A. E. Stallings, paints a picture of a former, now longed-for, home:
The house where we were happy,
Perhaps it’s standing still
On the wrong side of the railroad tracks
Half-way down the hill
The opening lines here establish a sing-song rhyme and rhythm, constantly echoing. Just as the speaker is nostalgic for their previous home, so too do these lines suggest an inability to let go.
‘Completion’, by Tom Vaughan, on the other hand, has rhymes the reader has to wait for. Its scheme of abcd abcd fgh fgh means that its later lines resonate with the earlier ones, refusing to allow the reader or speaker to move forward.
Rhyme is also employed to humorous ends, depicting home as a place for play. ‘Robert Frost Tackles the Blockage’ by Ann Drysdale is a lively spoof of Frost’s ‘Acquainted with the Night’, and begins:
I have been acquainted with the shite
That gathers in the gloom of septic tanks
And shoulders-up the lid with foetid might.
Rhyme, then (while not in my own view a prerequisite for ‘good’ poetry) is employed with considerable skill in these poems. It helps to weave an image of home as a place to play, and a place to miss.