Blueprints for a Minefield – Shauna Robertson
Fair Acre Press, 2016 £4.99
A Book of Surprises
This debut pamphlet signals the arrival of a lively, playful and remarkably distinctive poetic voice – but more than that, it’s a book of surprises. There are terribly moving moments and instances of the surreal hidden among the bright, witty poems, ready to catch you off-guard. Reading it, you have the sense that a grinning Robertson is taking you by the hand, and you’re along for the ride. Genuinely funny poems (such as ‘Assignment: A Recent Argument’, in which a woman furiously accuses her lover of having eaten her poem) are contrasted with moments of acute poignancy, for example where two people try to salvage a relationship in ‘Ordinary Circumstances’:
My hands, your heart
your skin, my bed – surely this time
we’re onto a winner? Nothing is lost,
my love. If we try we can still be extraordinary.
‘This Is For You’ is a highlight of the collection and demonstrates perfectly the poet’s ability to bend the rules of language, playing with sound and meaning while still, somehow, producing something that moves the reader:
This is for you.
It is my full heart.
My full heart, it is for you.
My heart is this full, it is.
Meanwhile, ‘I Can’t Get No ... Oh No No No’ is packed with such amusing, unexpected images that it pulls you up short:
A boy so thin he could stand
in a rainstorm and stay dry
slips through the gap in my front teeth.
And just as you start to get used to quirkiness and humour, the final stanza of ‘Winter in the Room’ presents you with one of the saddest moments in the whole pamphlet:
If only we could shelter each other
from our lesser selves.
Instead, they pitch tents
at opposite ends of the room
and we watch, helpless,
passing each other the mallet.
‘Blueprints for a Minefield’ is quite simply a treat to read. Since finishing it I’ve been unable to stop visualising the ultimate love as a ‘grapefruit moon’ (‘This One’s from the Heart’). What a perfect, perfect image!