Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Grey cover with lighter grey beam; purple and red letteringwasted rainbow, Caleb Parkin

tall-lighthouse, 2021     £6.00

Recurring features

I was struck by the poet’s use of repetition in this pamphlet: in particular, recurring words or lines, and his use of spaces within poems. For instance, in ‘Catatumbo Lightning’, white space evokes the experience of an eye examination:

and the day is made                           in moments
a bright flash    moves                        l e f t      t o      r i g h t

‘The Avocado Speaks’, a powerful poem about a grandfather struggling to comprehend his twenty-year-old grandson, is peppered with visual caesurae representing the gaps in communication and understanding:

what is he supposed to do with me
this         great           dark         seed

Anaphora features in several poems, notably in ‘For I Will Consider Gnorma, The ASDA Pride Gnome’:

For the plastic compounds of her body are prehistoric.
For there are velociraptors behind her mass-produced eyes.

Another example is the quasi-personification of ‘Nothing’ repeated at the beginning of couplets in ‘Why Are You Crying, Boy? (Part 2)’.

Nothing in brutalist corners, where Wispa wrappers mutter
invitations to brittle leaves and shuffle dance among the fag-butts.

Caleb Parkin also uses the traditional villanelle form in ‘A Sibling Calls’ creating, with its repetitions of these two lines, a sense of mystery and journey:

Melissa, in the rush of motorway:
a voice washed down the line. What does it say?

‘The Desktop Metaphor’ has continuous text with no punctuation, split into two columns with the first column repeating words from the second column. The language becomes more fraught and pared back on the left-hand side:

the Gull                                   whose beak pierces the poles
the poles                                    whose screams are tectonic

The ekphrastic poem ‘The Thereminist Hails a Bus’ responds to music. Parkin strings out repeated vowels to emphasise sound and the surreal nature of what he is portraying:

the vehicle stopped, but the sliiiiiii-
ding doors sqeeeeEEEEEzed themselves

And later in the same poem, the lines break up with repeated indentation.

These devices work powerfully alongside this pamphlet’s strong imagery and concise language. A compelling pamphlet.

Sue Wallace-Shaddad