Objects of Desire, Sophie Essex
Pyramid Editions, 2015 £2.75
Pamphlet as greenhouse
‘Pyramid Editions’ are collections of just three poems by one (under 30) author on a single theme. In his Sphinx interview with Helena Nelson, Pyramid editor Owen Vince talks compellingly about poetry as ‘architectural rendering’. But he also says it is ‘a fractious activity. Emotional. Poets are selves, but they don’t have to write about this me and what I feel in a direct way’.
Sophie Essex’s group of three – called Objects of Desire – looks, on the page, clean, minimalist. Two slightly longer pieces flank a short central one. The longest of the three – the first, ‘Her’ – is still only sixteen short lines long. Stylistically, the three seem of a piece: a mix of single lines, and variable stanzas; all short lines. (There’s a pleasing mirroring between a 3 bullet-point ‘list’, following the first line of the first poem, and another, similar one, preceding the last line of the third.)
Put simply, there are not that many words here – and what there are seem exceptionally spare. Indeed, the work seems almost dry with control. To the extent that, for me, the control itself becomes at least part of the point. Here is a restrained group of three restrained poems which nudge ideas of submission, and domination (‘you begging for what I couldn’t’; ‘K says react / K says skittish’). And there is difficulty, and ‘deadness’: one senses some rather muted ritual, perhaps, being acted out, time and again between the white walls of this pamphlet, and ‘our concrete apartment’ (‘is this what they call having a good time’).
But I do think there’s hope – couched somewhere between the palms of that repeated line ‘When I said I like you this way’? These are the conditions, I’m left feeling, under which that tiniest green shoot of desire may be permitted to show. They’re hard to achieve and only painstakingly maintained under careful regulation. Maybe this itself is not unlike the Pyramid format: a delicate hot-house casing for a fragile bloom?