Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

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Enchant / Extinguish, M StasiakThe jacket has a thick white band at top and bottom. The top white area has no text or imagery. The bottom one has the collection title in dark green lowercase lettering left justified. Above the title is a dark green band about half an inch thick. The author's title appears here, this time right justified in white lower case letters. The M of the name starts just above the 'h' that is the last letter of the title.Above this a wide band holds an abstract design, in black, dark blue, white, beige. It might represent a landscape.

Shearsman Books, 2021    £6.50

Giving voice to threat

In chilling language, Enchant / Extinguish confronts what is currently happening to the planet. There’s anger about human greed, exploitation and refusal to face up to the issue. Although the collection says more to me about extinction than enchantment, its words make a strong warning.

The threat of climate change charges all eighteen poems and entrapment is often visceral. In the first poem (‘Buzzing’), for instance, half-asleep, the mind of the poetic subject drifts: ‘& I was a fly buzzing against steel mesh [...] & I was / the mesh & the buzz as well as the fly / & the incursion into space & [...] I was a rust-spot / withering the wires’.

Elsewhere, threat is depicted through funerary associations, the rhythm of metallic sounds, geology, chemistry, neurochemistry, a hint of sci-fi and, occasionally, religion. They make a frightening backdrop.

Mid-collection there are two tree poems, trees being symbols of survival. Woodland is somewhere quiet, ‘after / what must have been / shouting, screams.’ (‘After the violence’).

On the facing page is a poem that’s almost tree-like in form. In ‘Trembling Aspen’, a poplar spills enchantment, shaking ‘green and amber gold and naked / through the burnt-out farm’.

The ocean too, in ‘The Breakers’, carries a glimpse of hope:

I have spent time with it and listened
to the fine-grained warm swarm
where pain and reluctance negotiate.

Only one poem, ‘Day trip’, is inhabited by named people, and even here the damaged protagonist might be a generalised ‘I’ rather than the poet’s voice:

retreating down through chequerboard flats, adrenaline calm


& climbing on the train with blackened eye & bleeding lip
I dumbly sat
listening to thunderstorms

Only the title poem names the threat directly:

We are landmines, we are glass
about to shatter […]
There are more forms of disorder
than order […]
The planet’s heat beneath
turns inside out. Above it
swarms the breathlessness,
the piety, our haste, revenge;
the spinning spinning
spinning dizzy end.

Sally Festing