Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Throatbone, Simon MaddrellThe jacket is dark, maroony red, with a white square in the middle, on which there is a red graphic. The graphic looks like three blotchily painted legs in a shape not unlike a three-legged swastika, but also like three legs, bent at the knee and running a race.. Centred above the white square is the title in white lower case, fairly large. Below the square is the author's name, also white lowercase but significantly smaller.

Uncollected Press, 2020 £7.99

Hitting the right note

So many notes on the poems here! Only two poems have none.

The notes are at the back of the publication i.e. not on the same page as the poem. Many explain who or what inspired a particular piece, or give bibliographic references.

Some also act as glosses to words. For example: ‘Bilberries are known by regional names, mainly as whimberries (sometimes written as whinberries, winberries or whynberries) but also as blaeberries, whortleberries or huckleberries’.

Others refer to locations on or near the Isle of Man, as in ‘Cregneish is a village in the south of the island, where my Grandpa lived the last 40 years of his life and later became a ‘living museum’.’

And some deal with the laws surrounding homosexuality. For example, one explains that the poem ‘Pink & Blue’ addresses ‘some of the IOM Constabulary law enforcement tactics regarding queer men, especially in the period 1986-1992, including incidents after it was clear that there would be legislation change’.

I was unable to decide whether the numerous notes created jarring atonal discordance, or whether they created a soundscape that I needed to be more open to hear, learn from and enjoy.

Confused, I took the poems down to the salt-marsh and read them to the incoming tide. And it was then that I heard the notes from the poems themselves: clear as the bell in a Buddhist temple.

Forgetting the many names for bilberries, I savoured, ‘Golden pie deluged in custard, / my drenched smile tinged with crust’ (‘Bilberry Pie’).

As I read ‘Dinosaur Teeth’ aloud, I savoured the deliciousness of the word ‘scrump’:

A child’s two left feet scrump the sands
For stones and shells that just feel good

In ‘Views from Niarbyl’, I recognised ‘The modern-day blonde Canute’ who had ‘Rolled his trouser legs up’ and wore a ‘White handkerchief for a crown’.

And in ‘Bay of Death’, when I heard myself reading ‘I had felt this before / in another cove behind my ear’, the notes were ringing absolutely true.

Sue Butler