Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Toots, Alyson HallettPurple cover with black lettering, 'Toots' quite big

Mariscat Press, 2017  £6.00

‘heart so big’

At the end of this tender and irreverently witty pamphlet is a dedication, i.m. Toots. From this I take Toots to have been a real person, which seems to be confirmed by the publisher’s blurb: ‘a joyous, riotous sequence celebrating a joyous, riotous affair with an island [Iona] and a wild Glasgow girl’ ̶  and I am at once captured by the openness, the intimacy of the poems:

she walked like a tree
if trees could walk
I hated her at first sight
she hated me too
which meant it was
only a matter of time
(‘the first time’)

Toots is a tree with a ‘voice like a pterodactyl’ (‘the first time’); she is a Glaswegian cursing in a ‘language so blue it shocked / and shook and ruined every idea / of what iona should be’ (‘mother tongue 3’). But (or and), soon enough:  

it was bliss it was all the deer
and vines and doves and honey
all the songs of solomon saying

come away with me my love
(‘love like this’)

The lower case, barely-punctuated free verse forms that begin and end lightly and freely are such a soft border between writer and reader:

she was more holy
than all the holy people
on that island

heart so big
it broke its banks

ganges nile clyde
the sheer unstoppable
force of it

It feels as if the poet’s heart has expanded to the size of Toots herself, with the capacity to embrace all the readers and all the wild and variegated world.

Kay Syrad