Gongoozler, Joshua Judson
Bad Betty Press, 2021 £6.00
Homage to family life and loss
The definition of ‘Gongoozler’ is given as ‘a watcher of canals, an idle spectator.’
Judson is a watcher in these carefully observed poems; he is no idle spectator. Instead, we see the narrator’s immersion amongst all he holds dear, both the people and the place. These are poems of deep affection, and provide a tender exploration of grief, sparingly told.
Urban life is rendered through concrete details, creating a backdrop for scenes of family interactions. ‘Tombstone’ begins:
I will come back
as junk at the bottom
of the canal —
bike, shopping trolley, microwave.
You will only be able to see me
on a cold day when the sun is shining
Several poems are titled ‘Gongoozler’. I was most moved by the third of these, which is about the narrator’s grandmother:
I try to remember my Grandma without the word dementia.
I try to walk with her out in the middle of the road, match her pace
But she turns left down the twitchel to the lock.
She steps out onto the canal and keeps walking.
Anyone who has seen a loved one changed by dementia knows this sense of their leaving while still living, the impotence of watching the person once known morph into a stranger. There is a moving straightforwardness of emotion in these poems, and it serves the material well.