Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

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Magnalia, Mara Adamitz ScrupeThe cover is pinkish with a repeating wall paper image, faded, that could be a leaf. The author's title and pamphlet title are in bold black caps all the same size. This odd font has a black filling for the loop of the letters R and P (the same inside for all poem titles). The text spreads over about half the space of the cover. In tiny black lower case at the bottom the series title, publisher's name, and goggles logo.

Eyewear Goggles, 2018    £6.00

A torrent of experience

‘Encolpion’, I discover from Wikipedia, is a breast ornament worn by an Eastern Orthodox Bishop, and having an ikon at the centre. A ‘Sunflower Encolpion’ is an easy item to imagine, and it is the title of Scrupe’s sensual poem, the fourth in this collection.

An ‘encolpion’ is mentioned again in the last stanza as a place in which a holy relic is secreted. In between, there are images of antique Persian plant-form, Dutch tulip-mania, padded trousers made from quilted, soft, old oriental fabrics, Norse plunder, and a great deal more, which it would be difficult to unravel without the internet. Even with that help there’s much that is obscure to this reader.

But that’s beside the point, because the language on the page is rich and diverse, and bears the person to whom the poem is happening through a torrent of experience. This ranges from the homely (‘a woman brings the thread / to the needle a man brings the needle / to the thread’) to the botanical (‘she’s thinking / like a petal a pistil she is / flower-full ochre-pollen-smudged / density’), all the more so because this poem — like most of this collection — is printed in irregularly indented lines, and full of long, white spaces, and furthermore without capitalisation or punctuation.

That this layout is not wilful or irrelevant is clear when any of the poems is read aloud. As with Dylan Thomas, the language is musical in itself, almost without any reference to meaning. But when I read the poems aloud, I found that the hesitation of the long spaces sometimes created emphasis, sometimes ambiguity, and that the extreme enjambment permitted a fluidity of syntax which did not obscure the (mostly) cheerful voice of the poet.

The imagery is often down-to-earth, or descriptive of handicraft, as in ‘The Dyer’s Hands’ which deals with the techniques and materials of dyeing with plant-sourced colours.

And sometimes the virtuoso mode that Scrupe adopts permits access to topics which are graver or more fragile, and which may not easily be visited more directly.

Simon Weller