Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

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A lucky dip into a strange trip

It helps to know that a ‘puggie’ is a fruit machine in Scots dialect. So we start off in a pub, but part of the charm of this single-poem pamphlet is the intrigue of always being slightly wrong-footed by the perspective, from the opening couplet onwards:

So you drill through Her Majesty’s lips,
tie her with a fishing line, and off you go.

With this we follow a dangling coin into a pocket and out into what seems to be a thought experiment about luck and chance. What if you won every gamble you took? What would that do to a person?

Grieve’s narrator radiates boredom, coping with too much luck by developing an addiction to diazepam and a fascination with statistics. (Do odds matter if any odds are possible?) He asserts himself only in refusing to allow himself to be used as a posterchild to lure others into the gaming industry.

At 124 lines, the journey the poem enacts is a remarkable act of compression. The narrator travels through a mindscape of endless possibility, into psychic chaos, before collapsing:

             [ ... ] The distance
between everything became the distance
between two sides of a card. Eye to lidless eye
with cosmic background radiation
I kugelblitzed

As with ‘puggie’, I had to look up ‘kugelblitz’, which has to do with the formation of black holes. Here it works as a moment of transcendence, similar perhaps to meditative bliss, or a drug-induced ‘trip’.

The aftermath of the kugelblitz suggests more metaphysical territory for this poem, the narrator realising ‘there was no choice,’ along with a clever evocation of one of the Greek Fates and her snipping scissors. I was left considering that ‘luck’ is possibly a metaphor for life. We’re all just taking our chance.

Heidi Beck