Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

The Wire Heart, Maggie O'DwyerCover of pamphlet which shows the planks of a fence (?) painted red. In the centre a heart is roughly daubed in white. The lettering for the author and title is also white at the base of the pamphlet.
Templar Poetry, 2015 £5.00

Colours on a canvas

The Wire Heart is full of colour, light and shade. In particular, there are many greens. I noticed green was gathering a sinister momentum through the collection, with most of the more definitively scary greens appearing in the second half of the book.

Among the earlier poems, green appears in the form of a pleasant lawn in ‘A Country Girl’ and then again in the suggestion of ‘sea glass walls’ in ‘Who made the world?’ Both these greens, in their contexts, seem polite and civilised – quite normal and predictable. But by the time we get to ‘That Shade of Green’ the colour is becoming menacing:

you see the winter
move on without you.
You can only imagine it
like the shuffling sound in the corridor, the angry
smoker’s voice in the Peace Garden
that says ‘Fuck you.’

Later still, green is truly threatening: ‘our lips burnt with watercress’ (‘That Summer’) or the sea is ‘quivering green’ (‘Wisteria’) or ‘crushed green ice’ in ‘Rescue Remedy’ or ‘the green wooden apple’ (‘Breathe in, hold, breathe out’) – this last an affecting image of lifelessness.

In the final poem of the collection, ‘Phone After Porridge’, green becomes something that is poured and poured, not in the form of

Precious Blossom Tea,
the one you love,
where its soft green buds
of amaranth and hibiscus
burst into flower

but as

Lyons Green Label,
the mortgage not paid, the sick cat
the body folding in on itself.
You listen and I keep pouring
dust.

There are plenty of other colour patterns to look out for, red and blue in particular. Paper often features and seems to bear a close relationship with the moon: both are white and not white, silvery, sometimes brown. Mirrors and glass let light bounce around. Black is a colour-rich and sensory experience in itself, more shadow and smoke than blackness. This whole collection can be seen as a canvas or sheet of paper on which the poet places colours (plus potential and implied colours) and plays with them. It is gorgeous, but it is a dark and elaborate game.

Clare Best