Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

White cover with black lettering and a black and white sketch of maybe juggling ballsHow Not to Multitask, Jo Weston

Wild Pressed Books, 2021   £6.00

Short lines

This pamphlet of fourteen poems, although slight, still manages to cover a lot of ground. I was particularly interested in how the poet uses short lines to enhance the impact of many poems. The heart of the first poem, ‘Neighbourhood watch’, is held in the final lines describing the comfort of home scents after being ‘in a house’

in which
I could not
be myself.

Illness features in this pamphlet and the sparseness of the eleven lines in ‘Chronic’ suggests the ‘pressure’ of being a patient. The bird image in the first line is striking:

With a sandpiper’s warning
I retreat;
inside my exoskeleton.

Birds also feature in ‘Flight of fancy’, which seems to me to be an extended metaphor for tensions in relationships. Unusually long in comparison to the other poems, this poem has fifty-one lines in six stanzas. The poet, however, makes effective use of a short line to open with ‘After winter; bitter, wet,’ and returns to short lines for the final lines of the poem:

not knowing which path to pursue:
the sparrowhawk’s
or what I knew.

‘Twelve Months of Cancer’ lists different aspects of breast cancer treatment as if they were ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. This comes across as an ironic play on the idea of a gift:

12 months of treatment
11 types of tablets
10 lots of blood tests

The poem ‘Stay local’ may relate to the pandemic as it describes the kind of daily walk many people took past ‘people’ and ‘traffic’ towards

hedgerows,

birds,

peace.

Here the poet puts mostly single words in a column with double spacing. This gave me the impression of taking steps on a journey.

The poem ‘Too young for this’ is a moving poem about a group meeting:

As shoulders drop, breathing deepens,
we share stories of choice:

salaries or rest, chemo or children,
quality of life — any life.

The last line of this poem and of the pamphlet holds a store of emotion: ‘we’re home’. The poet shares several journeys in this pamphlet, using short lines to maximum effect.

Sue Wallace-Shaddad