Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

an eye for an eye for an eye, Ellen RentonThe jacket is a dark mustard colour with a yellow graphic (large) to the left of the bottom two-thirds. The graphic is a cartoon face in profile, with a quiff of hair and a large eye. The title in bold white lower case, sans-serif font, is right justified over three lines: an eye for / an eye for / an eye. The author name is below this, also fully lower case but yellow.

Stewed Rhubarb Press, 2021    £5.99

How Far Can You See???

This witty pamphlet uses original language and form to take the reader beyond common perceptions. It has various themes, but the one that seems most unusual to me is visual impairment and living in a society that doesn’t understand or consider the experiences of blind and partially sighted people.

The sequence ‘How Far Can You See?’ adds question marks to its poem titles as the speaker’s patience wears thin:

Now imagine what it looks like when you stand forty eight metres away from it. That’s how I would see the same plant in a pot from six metres away. But only on days without glare or weak sun or low sun or hot sun or snow or weather.
    [‘How Far Can You See?’, a prose poem]

And in a later poem in the same sequence:

They say, you are so brave and persistent.
You say thank you and ask for help.
They say, what do you think of this cosy lining?
You ask for help.
They say, I admire you, so brave and so persistent.
    [‘How Far Can You See???’]

Another poem, ‘Contact’, enacts the world coming into focus as the speaker puts in her contact lenses, moving from elliptical fragments to full sentences through a glorious assonance of O sounds:

drawn folds show blotched dawn
yawn
roll on robes of smoke
thoughts fog-soaked

[…]

each time I’m almost surprised
by what the morning looks like but
not quite
today it woke me speechless
       now I’ve got my tongue back

Meanwhile, ‘Junkit’ responds to ‘someone painted to look like me in a film’, reworking their cliched quotes as it proceeds:

it was the greatest challenge of my career but it was a privilege
I had to teach my body to forget all of what it takes for granted
[…]
it’s a good story
it’s a privilege
I try to forget

Finally, ‘New Prescription’ celebrates perception in a way that seems to me to sum up the pleasure I got from reading this pamphlet:

                              The tree is a
proper marvel / where the wee road
meets the big road / as it always
has been / but somehow holy /

Ramona Herdman