Briar Mouth, Helen Nicholson
HappenStance, 2018 £5.00
Texture and layout as a form of experiencing
‘The mind speaks at a pace I cannot match in my speech.’ This feeling describes the experience of many people who struggle with speech. Often the pain of articulation is caught between the tongue and the teeth. Sounds cannot find their way out of the mouth in the intended shape or with the force the speaker imagines in their head. Often strategies include kinesthetics to support the articulation. This comes alive in ‘Speech Therapy’ as Nicholson vividly expands:
Most times the ‘k’ sticks in my throat, won’t
slide past my lips without a kick under the table.
In the title poem, ‘Briar Mouth’, the poet uses the layout to create a visually startling representation of this experience, making it real for even those who have never struggled with it. The reader can imagine the texture of the bramble punctuating speech with nicks and bloodied space colouring the landscape of thought and feeling as the speaker explores this pain and effort:
Had I been granted pebbles in my m outh
I would have dis bursed my g ift long ago
But I was granted brambles
Thorns n icked but it wasn’t all
b loody Occasional soft dark fruit
p ushed past the alveolar ridge
Having myself worked with students who have had such challenges, I thank Helen for writing these two poems and providing strength.