Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Yield, Lydia Unsworth

Knives, Forks & Spoons Press, 2020     £6.50

Authentic patchwork

This complex series of call and response prose poems grew out of a fundraising project for Tupelo Press. The project started, last year, as a thirty-day creative jumpstart of daily practice in writing. Responding to a daily Tao text, Unsworth has composed mash-up pieces using material from, for instance, song lyrics and newspaper articles to examine the world from different angles.

She seems interested in the flow of the universe and how life might be ordered in better ways — with some poem titles setting out golden rules such as ‘We Will Not Hurt Each Other’. In ‘Doors and Windows’ she ponders how ‘loops of inefficiency stir us tighter together in spaghetti-inhale’. Stars ‘gasp’, and we read of ‘the pathetic flicker of a new moon’. The lines orbit around each other as the conventional world recedes behind a confusion of being, an uncertainty around ‘who’s coming back’, and the loss of endangered animals.

In ‘The World Comes to You’ we find ourselves at the coast. Here the narrator meets (possibly) another person (a ‘you’). The poem is packed with ambiguity:

I can give you a thing – a patchwork, thousands of
precious names that the tide can take away 

Doubt creeps in as the piece develops into a rephrasing and correction of expression with a run of bracketed corrections: ‘I am hurt / (broken) amplified (leave it) each time anyone (anyone) (wait) (!) walks.’

In ‘Whatever is Contrary Will Not Last Long’ the images are rich and seductive. Velvet upholstery, a fork of lightning in a splitting road, and a silent song engage us in this search for wisdom. Finally, the poet suggests a way through:

Reclaim a little wasteland.
A slow breath without mention, a gathering momentum. A trick. The ends are
taught to meet; meaning we’re all one thing

These lively poems play with white space and surreal connections in a pamphlet which startles the reader into exploring how to live an authentic life. 

Maggie Mackay