L M Dearlove – Providence Farm
The Garlic Press, 2016 £5.00
Secret Selves (Helena Nelson)
What appeals to me here is the spookiness: it's the kind of writing that makes you aware of the world as seen from one corner of an eye.
It provides glimpses of many secret selves. I began to notice them in ‘Elsie’s Always Here’, in which a ‘brother’s friend’ puts on a wig and suddenly acts out an entirely different version of himself. It’s a glorious joke, and yet it has a sadder, darker side: ‘Elsie Biggleswaite never spoke through him again.’
Auntie Mave is also transformed by a bottle of tomato ketchup and a poster of a matador and it’s her secret self that gets out: ‘Out street knew nothing of this Spanish / -blooded Rosanna at number seventeen’.
The ‘The Rope’ (a lovely example of precisely the right form for the right poem) an ordinary girl ‘curves / into a woman’, leaving the astonished viewers ‘to wonder / how, where / has the girl gone’.
In ‘An Old Haunt’ the poet is walking with her dog in the woods. She senses (not sees) an invisible girl ‘running in and out of the silver / birches’. Who? Not her own secret self exactly, and yet in a sense it must be: it’s a glimpse of her own mother before she herself exists.
Even an ordinary kitchen carving knife, the ‘good knife’ for tackling the Sunday roast, ‘wants you to hear its secrets’; not to mention the ‘little voice inside the bottle’ of booze: ‘How can you / be so cruel, keeping me corked up’.
This is a rich world, where past and present overlap deliciously, thanks to a poet who knows precisely what she’s doing. It’s not safe, of course, but delight outweighs safety. And I haven’t even mentioned Lizard, whom the psychiatrist thinks is ‘a mental case’. But you know Lizard, don’t you?
Important, according to Lizard,
to let it all out, write without stopping –
indecipherable, like Lizard.
Refusing to be confined (Charlotte Gann)
This pamphlet has a restless energy. The poems at start and close are more like open gates to me than bookends.
The first starts ‘It begins with a glove’ – which feels a bit like coming into a room where someone is telling a story – and the last opens ‘Sorry, did I forget / to mention him, the wolf ...’ Again, beautifully conversational but with a serious glint: there’s more beyond these walls.
I find this playful but powerful, and in keeping with the irrepressible energy of the rest of the work. Some of these poems are fantastic fun: ‘Elsie’s Always Here’ is perfect, and ‘Chamberlain Street Chandelier’ quietly hilarious. And yet ‘Mystery’ infuses the lot. ‘Even as you unlock the door, it begins’; ‘It’s the real thing and who knows / what’s in the yellow envelope.’
Above all, deeply, I feel, something is right here. The call is to freedom – despite the claustrophobic oppressiveness of some of the environments: ‘Chapel Place’, ‘Cherry Tree’ and ‘A Matter of Time’ – with its memorable tableau of a family eerily excavated.
But there’s also a strong female line running through. There’s ‘Auntie Mave’, ‘this Spanish-/blooded Rosanna’, having proper fun with the children. There’s a mother, to whom (I assume) the poet reconnects by swimming thirty ‘Lakes in Spring’ ‘– surfacing far out / in the middle of the blackness’ (contrast this with the wonderful ‘Prehistoric Fish’ – some lying ‘so quiet on the pebbles / I breathe for them’ – which ‘crave/ a bigger sea than this’).
We know – even before we encounter the charismatic if alarming ‘Lizard’ – ‘There must be bigger / envelopes’ (‘An Episode’). In ‘The Wolf’, L M Dearlove writes: ‘I threw open the door / on what had to be faced.’ There’s nothing timid about this; it’s strong. A strength (perhaps) inherited?
Here is my favourite image, from ‘An Old Haunt’:
How can it be
when her feet are drumming
so fast towards me: the woman she’s yet to conceive
as her daughter