Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

The Cabinet, Linda Jackson

Red Squirrel Press, 2021      £6.99

Only a mother could

When her mother died recently, Linda Jackson inherited a glass cabinet of ornaments and souvenirs. Each poem in The Cabinet tells the story of one of these objects, weaving in the voices of both mother and daughter. The mother’s no-nonsense Paisley speech sings out in every poem. It’s a deceptively simple organisational device which offers us a window into the mother’s formidable, complex character and into an ambivalent mother-daughter relationship.

Several objects in the cabinet are holiday souvenirs. Their associated memories highlight the mother’s tendency to play mind games. In ‘Moroccan Glasses in Granada’, Linda Jackson’s daughter buys a set of Moroccan glasses which her grandmother has just admired:

It was in the Albaycin, she bought them,
my daughter eager to please you — or try to.
            Aye, they’re quite nice
            No get much ae a cup a tea in them, right enough.

The granddaughter, hurt, returns to the hotel. The poem explores, as do several others, the cat-and-mouse conversation-games that families can play with each other. In the end the spurned glasses are elevated to the cabinet:

They did get pride of place     eventually.
Near window light, letting a Scottish
sun cast shadows on a photo way back
to your teen times, looking so much like
my only daughter.

I reflect and begin again to wonder
about the trenches of your secret self-loathing.

But there is admiration too, and compassion. After the mother has died, the poet and her daughter re-live ‘laughter’ and ‘legendary stories’, acknowledging her hard life, here, in ‘Mother and Daughter’:

A wee girl running in a waste of un-weeded
backcourts with no hand to hold.
We knew that.
[…]
So, your lesson to me was always resilience,
back up straight, be a good soldier,
                 Get bloody well on wi’ it.

These poems are as fluent, passionate and strong as the mother they describe. I’ve mentioned just two here, but you need to read them all. I enjoyed this pamphlet hugely and found lots to reflect on regarding my (very different) relationship with my own late mother and with my daughter.

Annie Fisher