Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Nothing Here IThe overall colour of the jacket is blue, but the top third is just pale background, over which the title is lowercase italics, very large, and centred. Below the title the name of the poet in italic caps. The bottom two thirds has an illustration that seems to include a bracelet, a circle (could be an old record) and some other magazine type background in blue and white. Hard to know quite what it is really.s Wild, Everything Is Open, Tania Hershman

Southword Editions, 2016  £5.00

Nursery-rhyme quality

This collection is easy to read. Every poem has a lovely lilt, and is so lightly cast off. Despite the fact many have weighty subject matters, they don’t weigh on a reader’s mind. And yet, to me, they carry conviction. Often, I was reminded of children’s classics, or nursery rhymes (I’ve even popped some of my wilder associations in brackets).

The pamphlet starts with ‘And What We Know About Time’ (and I notice, too, the impact of initial caps for every word in titles). The poem is about the narrator’s father dismantling a clock, then putting it back together (Hickory Dickory Dock; Humpty Dumpty). It’s a wonderful children’s book scene, including the dog who ‘dreamed and snored’ (picture books like We’re Going on a Bear Hunt). It ends resoundingly with a rhyme (‘drawer’ with ‘for’).

As does ‘Hold The Baby’ – a surreal, maybe-dream prose poem. Again, that rhyme closes the poem with a satisfying click: ‘Some time had passed, maybe / minutes, and she wanted to drop the baby. Not hard, not on the / floor, just not to hold it any more.’ (Alice in Wonderland)

Or take two consecutive First World War poems: both manage to be arresting while startlingly light. The idea of ‘Folding a field’ in ‘Lessons In Flanders Agriculture’ is, to my mind, straight from a children’s book illustration: ‘one man at each corner / many down the sides’ (Mrs Pepperpot; The Grand Old Duke of York).

Or ‘Delville Wood’ with its wonderful extra emphasis of a well-placed exclamation mark. Here:

...It was/ a horse
           Fire on them
A horse
          Fire on them!
A horse, grazing.

And ‘Life Just Swallows You Up’ really does read like a nursery rhyme: ‘She passes // just after dessert arrives. Shame, / says the waiter, poised to whisk / away her Eton Mess. Leave it, I say // and sit there, orphaned...’ (Both this and ‘Delville Wood’ put me in mind of Belloc’s Cautionary Tales.)

I may well be over-egging my impression. But the effect on me of these poems is interesting and unusual. Is it something about carrying seriousness lightly? If so, Tania Hershman does it beautifully.

Charlotte Gann