Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Kate Wakeling - 'The Rainbow Faults'
The Rialto Bridge Pamphlet No. 10, 2016    £5.50Front cover of pamphlet: large and white, with the title centred and in large sans serif caps (black): THE RAINBOW / FAULTS. The name of the author is in very small caps immediately below. Across the pages, running diagonally from top left to right is a thick red band, softly curved, and around that thickest filament, various others run: green, blue, orange, yellow, purple, pink. They look like veins and capillaries, though multicoloured, with the yellow ones at the bottom branching off and up, off and down. Doesn't look like a rainbow because there are lopped and junctions.

Muscled Zoom  

What grabs me about this pamphlet is how precisely and how playfully Kate Wakeling places words to construct soundscapes. These in turn create a space for her gifts of intellect and observation. Take a close look at the last stanza of ‘Hotel for Astronomers’, for example, then try saying it out loud:


By night we caught the traces of their star-barks
and sized up their comet-spying jigs,
buffered, as we lay in the saltgrass,
by the haphazard accord of hyperaridity
and the meticulous glint of land.


I really enjoy that star-barks / saltgrass rhyme – how it sets up an expectation that won’t be met – as well as the interplay of consonants (t, d, c/k, s, h and p/b) finishing with the l-sounds in the last line. All this contributes to a satisfyingly grounded end to a poem that, as I read it, riffs upon the unknowable heavens.

And in ‘Watching One’s Loved One Play the Piano / Scalp Scabs’, Wakeling enlists the consonants (l, k, t, f, s) from a run of little words to equally striking effect:

I like too the meaty fidget that lurks always
in your fingers.

Wondering how far her work as an ethnomusicologist influences her writing, I’m drawn to ‘Gamelan Poem’ (Gamelan is Indonesian orchestral music using mainly percussion instruments):


Gamelan pushes its nose up beyond
deep motivation. Gamelan is sombre
thud of gong pursued by raging cloud
of bronze bees. Gamelan is the un-
shilly-shally, the hum and thwack,
the clobber and charge. Gamelan
is the zinger that bites twice, a naughty
tail on the make, of punch and wriggle
and sting and muscled zoom.


Here is Wakeling doing what she does so well: allowing the sounds of the poem to build up into its energy, its sense, its muscled zoom. For me, that entails perhaps a kind of courage, or perhaps a kind of trust. Whatever it is, she’s got it.

Helen Evans