Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Same But Different, Helen Mort and Katrina NaomiThe jacket is turquoise and a tall A5. In the middle is a white box, same size as the pamphlet but leaving a turquoise border of about two inches on each size. The middle block is white in background, the bottom two thirds holding a swirly black and grey design with white shapes floating over it: they look like kites. The top third holds the title in lower case black font over two lines, centred. Below this, much smaller, the names of both authors, also centred, first Mort, then Naomi.

Hazel Press, 2021      £10.00

Two takes

The ‘one point of interest’ is easy to spot in this pamphlet: it’s split into named sections, with two poems in each, presumably one by each poet. I like the way this is implied by the title and format, but not laboriously explained.

The section headings are a pleasure: BENEATH, INSTRUMENT, IN, GIFT, REFLECTION, FUTURE, TAUGHT, RISE, TAKE, GIVE. I wonder if these were writing prompts that led to the poems. A poet-reader might use some of them as personal inspirations.

A group of poet-readers might enjoy discussing which sections work best. IN, REFLECTION and TAUGHT are particularly to my taste. There’s something very pleasing about how ‘Fickle Lover’ (the first poem in IN), which uses a lover as metaphor for the sea, is followed by ‘Wash’, which uses a succession of metaphors for post-coital sensations, some watery. For example, there’s the wonderful:

My body is a wet t-shirt
pegged on a line
that underscores
the hills.

The link between the two poems is perfect, with ‘Fickle Lover’ ending:

But sunrise, I’ll be waiting for you, having
                   shifted my day around your tides;
my own primitive seduced –
                   you run, spuming, towards me.

And ‘Wash’ starting:

After we come
I lie heavy
next to you.

A few sections don’t quite manage the join/contrast so neatly, which to me is less satisfying, although another reader might find the wider range of possibility exhilarating. In TAKE, for example, we have ‘When Red is Fed Up’, which runs through a succession of associations with red (desire, lipstick, politics, Red Riding Hood) and ‘Happy Meal’, which is about food, anorexia, hunger, and family. The latter does feature a lot of TAKEaways, but I’m not sure these two poems gain anything, for me, by being paired.

But that’s a minor quibble — there are quite a few stand-out pieces here, and it’s fascinating tracing the links within and between sections. In particular, there’s much about family and about the roles women are expected (and choose) to take, which gains depth and richness from the different viewpoints of the two poets.

Ramona Herdman