Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

neutral milky halo, Maria SledmereThe background of the jacket is creamy beige. In the middle, an illustration of a rose, half pink and half greenish. There appears to be a large drop descending into the middle of the flower, like a dew drop. This is also green one side, pink the other, white in the middle and at the top of the drop a kind of pink radiation circle in little lines. The text is small and right justified in the bottom right hand corner, first the title in pink, below that the name of the author (slightly smaller) in brown. Text is a delicate lower-case italic.

Guillemot Press, 2020    £8.00

‘I have notions of a life outside language’ (‘Heathenish’)

Neutral milky halo seems to seek to go beyond using language to convey literal meaning. The pamphlet opens with a quote from novelist Clarice Lispector:

From the words of this chant [...] a halo arises that transcends the phrase [...] The halo is more important than the things and the words.’

On first reading, I found the poetry tricky to grasp. Packed with complex language and images, some of the lines seem like non-sequiturs:

if a former love should fall
very cool, like a two-minute Uber
costs less than lunch.
     [‘Flotsam’]

Yet pay attention, and certain ideas or themes seem to emerge. According to Guillemot Press

neutral milky halo loops around the pixelated tempos, imaginaries and myths of this fraught, contingent moment.

Poems make reference to sickening nature, such as in ‘Nothing But the Rent’ where a landlord is transformed into ‘the fungus / I grow in the shower’, perhaps hinting at a critique of capitalism. In ‘Flotsam’, images of coastal pollution abound with references to an ‘oil-made / hide of feathers’ and a ‘beach’ with ‘loops of oil’.

Throughout, the shadow of the pandemic is visible:

In lockdown
the ice cream trucks this emptiness
that is city, selling the opiod
of a sugar requirement.
    [‘Sundae’] 

The poetry is a kind of chant, used to circle around our current realities, inhabiting the now without providing neat answers or solutions.

It is, perhaps, a difficult poetry for a difficult time. Maria Sledmere appears to seek to go beyond language and literal meaning to create incantations for and about the world we live in. This is poetry at the cutting edge of innovation.

Isabelle Thompson