Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Deliberate Sunlight, Jean TaylorThe pamphlet is photographer lying on a teak effect surface -- probably a table. It is cream in colour. Text and graphics are black. An inch and a half from the top the title appears in bold lower case of moderate size.  In the middle there are two graphics that look like prints (perhaps) taken from flowers: they have five petals and the top one is bigger. Bottom right, below the smaller flower, the author's name appears in very small black lowercase. Below this in the right hand corner is the imprint logo, which is a black rectangle with an eye shaped symbol (white with black centre) and the name of the press in white.

Black Agnes Press, 2019  £5.00

Writing with clarity

Jean Taylor surveys both what she sees and her own experience with a calm clarity. She is often dispassionate, but never cold. Whether it is the landscape, or her observations of others, she remains objective. ‘Genetic Variations’ is a summary of the inheritance she shares with her siblings. Beyond the list, she hints at more.

In ‘Glass Houses’ she describes a street where a woman has ‘delegated the work / of ordinary living.’ She wryly notes            

           […]  the watchers
draw curtains furtively,

hiding their own entanglements.  

When responding to her own life and circumstances, this level assessment can quietly dismantle the reader. Taylor surveys her situation with wit, a sense of her place, and an absence of self-pity. Her view has self-knowledge; her approach, application. In ‘Summer Blood’ she describes this considered approach. It is a habit of long practice:

I shall sit beside her, stiff-backed
against gaudy stripes, studying my book
and practising
for the possibility of being a woman.

Many of these poems interrogate and coolly acknowledge loss. For example, in ‘You’ she describes ‘Waking that night to find you cold’ before she observes that she had not thought ‘to test / for murmuration of pulse or breath’. It is only at the end of the poem that she allows herself to write ‘my beloved — you.’

In ‘Mayday’ she uses formal stanzas and sustained metaphor to articulate loss:   

Living without him is like flying
without instruments

She does not wallow. Her language echoes her approach; crisp, disciplined. She is self-knowing and her zest for life, sense of the rational and of possibility resurfaces:

Perhaps she will master the joystick
fly over the mountain  

There are poems of recovery, and of hope, again objectively described. The final piece, ‘Sunlight’, again has that clear-sighted, dispassionate view of former gifts of flowers as a preface to her current purchases of daffodils — for herself.

carnations
scented with guilt and petrol.

[…]

She buys them for the pleasure,
the joy
of watching them
becoming sunlight.

These are beautiful, elegant poems.

Rosemary Hector