Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Hinge, Alycia PirmohamedThe jacket is two colour bands and these run vertically. The orange band is to the left and occupies about one third of the jacket. The rest is black. The press name is in black at the foot of the orange band. The black area features four coloured triangles (yellow, orange, pink) and two diamonds. The diamonds are simply thin outlines of the shape, orange outlines. One of them overlaps with one of the coloured triangles on one side, and slips into the orange band on the other. Lettering for the pamphlet title and author is white, right justified, bottom right. All is lower case. The title is slightly bigger font size than the author's name.

ignitionpress, 2020     £5.00

A poetry with space at its centre

‘And everything you have written,’ says the speaker in ‘Welcome’, ‘is haunted by those extra spaces between lines, / your every impulse to add another gap.’ Hinge is a pamphlet where the spaces, the silences, speak as loudly as the words — if not more so.

The opening poem, ‘My Body is a Forest’, uses space as a kind of puncturing, a wounding which breaks the poem apart. Wide spaces are used to split ‘home’ from ‘this body’. The speaker’s definition of a ‘daughter’ is given in shattered pieces:

            A daughter      which is to say            an inherited vanishing

                           through the slit of a dream.

This is a poetry of migration, of crossing borders both physical and emotional. It is poetry seeking (in ‘My Inheritance is to Long for [                      ]’) to ‘quell’ a ‘need for wholeness’. The spaces make emotional wounds literal. In this case, a painful loss of identity is caused by the speaker’s father’s decision to emigrate. ‘Your father is where the act / of missing something first took root’ (‘Homeward’).

In Hinge, though, space is more than a wound. It is also an act of reaching out, an attempt to stretch across distance; it is a ‘quest to belong’ (‘House of Prayer’).

In ‘My Inheritance is to Long for [          ]’, empty square brackets are used to explore the speaker’s fading grasp of her grandmother’s language, how it ‘slips and quivers between’ her ‘teeth,’ how a ‘jar of cloves’ ‘scatters like the word for [        ]’. Space here is a yearning, an attempt to ‘become a bridge that crosses the chasm’ (‘Love Poem with Elk and Punctuation’).

A hinge is a break, a bend upon (and around which) other things depend and revolve. Pirmohamed’s poems use space as a centrifugal point around which they spin. Space is the wound these poems seek to heal, the lyric for which they are continually and beautifully searching. Aching for transcendence and wholeness, the speaker addresses her God — ‘Bismillah, I reach for you again’ (‘On My Tongue’).

Isabelle Thompson