Animal Noises, Phoebe Walker
Green Bottle Press, 2020 £6.00
Mind blowing poems
This is how I experienced the poems in Animal Noises. They paint a picture of a dislocated, dystopian world and yet they are full of colour and sensation.
‘Deep Thought’ begins:
I think about the textures of white fish on my plate,
red fish on yours. I’ll hold a small bulb of lime juice
under my tongue; when I add a grain of salt,
the complexion of its flavour will volte face.
My mind fizzes at the thought! Each poem is the verbal equivalent of a surrealist painting. In ‘Tell You No’, the poet (replying to an online guru) states:
I go to buy the lemonade, the pop, the ginger.
Against the counter, my small green heart [opaque, like poor jade]
flops out — glub.
Consuming, purchasing, and preparing food is in nearly all the poems. These ordinary human activities are heightened by the extraordinary language. The poem ‘Charlie’ begins with the words ‘At our table’ and ends with:
nursie’s teeth just begging
for childer’s bones, the teeth by now
quite blue, discoloured with disuse.
In the kitchen, blood turns to steam,
the poor meat tensing with its loss.
Sinister happenings in the poems are in this way made extremely vivid. ‘Shauna’ in the poem of that name is caught
rippling to the kitchen, sore,
fingers in the soup.
and later her ‘short neck tracks the circuit of the ceiling fan like a bound snake’. A combination of the rhythm and repeated sounds in this line so accurately ‘give us Shauna’, it takes my breath away. ‘Kitchen’ begins: ‘The hurt of this year squats in my saucepan’. Later:
Tonight I unmound a golden scalp of rice
onto the shallow lipped dish
I can feel and taste the rice on my own lips as I read this. These poems delight and appall in equal measure.