Elastic Glue, Kathy Pimlott
The Emma Press, 2019 £6.50
In her long-lined poem ‘A Visit to the Master of Space and Light’ — one of those expansively-written poems that have to be printed sideways — Kathy Pimlott ranges through the rooms in ‘the complicated houses of Sir John Soane’. Looking at his ‘stuff’, his playfulness with light, she finds that despite differences they have one thing in common:
I can barely prise the plastic bung from a piggybank
and most of the stuff in my house
isn’t actually mine.
But we’re both listy, both suckers
for an accumulation of resonant fragments, cunning references
Exactly! Just as Soane created a glorious collection of ‘sarcophagi, casts, acanthus bosses, crocodiles, brass taps’ in Lincolns’ Inn Fields, so Pimlott collects the sounds, people, smells, pavements of Seven Dials in all their rich texture. She crams them into ‘Going to the Algerian Coffee Store: 500g Esotico’ — the other long-lined sideways-printed poem in this pamphlet — which at one level is simply an account of the two possible routes to the store but at another level is the teeming, throbbing, discordant, densely layered life of central London.
After the bin lorry has exhausted its beautifully modulated warnings,
after the glass lorry has shifted shingle, I step out into West Street
and the dog-end of last night, where a sweeper leans on his cart
and chats with his own country
With noises so familiar we barely register them in real life Pimlott places the reader in her world, along side her, precisely but lightly. Having tuned us in via shared aural memory she’s then free to itemise details, what’s there — and what’s not. What’s absent contributes just as much as what’s present —
no loitering snappers, no witless number plates outside The Ivy yet,
just yellow drums of spent oils and bags of yesterday’s fancy breads
awaiting their special collections under the heritage lamppost.
Luxury and poverty sit side by side, as do waste and need. The list goes on — but you’ll have to buy the pamphlet to find out how good ‘listy’ can get.
D. A. Prince
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