Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

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Brightwork, Suzannah V EvansThe jacket is clear, pale blue. Top right hand corner a leaf of sea-weed is in silver, and the title is in small boldened silver caps in the bottom right hand corner. Below this in tiny black lower case italics, the author's name. The right hand side of the jacket, lower half, bears three soft images, outlined or drawn in black, in a vertical line. It is clearly they are something precise but hard to say what. The first could be a piece of sea-weed or even a sea snail. The second could be the square wedge the bow of a boat is lodged into when moored. The third could be sea-weed, though the shape is quite like swallow's wings.

Guillemot Press, 2021           £6.00

Sensory imaginings

I love everything about Brightwork. I see the name on a boat, painted boldly (‘these poems were written during a poetry residency at Underfall Yard’), then find ‘brightwork’ defined as ‘polished metalwork on ships or other vehicles’. It’s an inspired title for this sparkling collection of poems.

The title word stands out in ‘The Woman Who Wanted to be a Boat’, a sensory prose poem:

She thought again of brightwork, of how her hull would shine in the water, how cormorants would fleet by her in the surf, how she would smell like silt, like salt. She closed her eyes, and rocked.

‘Fleet’ also draws the eye, makes me linger. These poems leave room for the reader. The repetition and similes in the first lines of ‘Almost-Heartwood’, and its stream of consciousness feel, all draw me back into its sensory imagery of sound:

The rosy almost-heartwood of larch,
which sounds like lark, which sounds like singing,
which sounds like the wood could open its rosy throat
and pour forth the song of boats sighing in the harbour

My favourite image comes in this lovely, shortest of poems, photographed so you can see the layout clearly. Maybe there’s silence, but I imagine a whooshing as the boats are lifted:

Photograph of the whole poem. Text reads 'In the Dream' (top right hand corner, the title), then large gap before two lines reading: 'boats were lifted over other boats towards the sea, / their hulls gleaming and green in the fresh light', then even larger gap before 'all lifted, greenly, over the great fields of boats, / so that the sky became the green and lapping sea.'

 

I’m rarely drawn to shaped poems, but ‘Buoy’ is an exception, shaping itself as it speaks. Near the middle there’s the sensory invitation to ‘Place your hand on my smooth / side and I am a rounded belly, full of sea dreams, water / susurrations’. I love the imaginings with which this poem ends:

I am as orange as the colour that appears before
your eyes when you blink before the sun;
I am an orange tethered thought
sounding out the water;
I am a scorched moon
at the harbourside.


Enid Lee