'&', Amy Kinsman
Indigo Pamphlets, 2018 £6.00
About midway through this interesting collection there’s a long poem called ‘it’s like this’. How strange, and strangely compelling, I found it.
Consisting of fourteen chunks of differing lengths of prose distinguished by Roman numerals but each called ‘it’s like this’, most start the same way — with the words ‘two of your lovers stand before you.’ This is not the kind of poem I naturally rush towards. (I’m inclined to recoil, at sight of it running to six pages. I’m inclined to recoil at sex in poetry.) However, I was surprised to find myself fully absorbed as I read.
The patterning is clear — the repeating motif of the opening; as well as another, secondary one (a number of the parts then continue ‘the one on the left [...] the one on the right’, though this is disrupted more frequently than the opening). Still, it’s there enough that a reassuring expectation grows: ‘two of your lovers stand before you’, starts ‘vi.’; ‘the one on the left is the first person you ever loved though you only know this in retrospect. the one on the right you recently realised you are in love with.’ (The poem also has this riddling quality.)
So we think we know where we are, and roughly what’s coming. Within that expectation, though, everything is fluid — those ‘lovers’ are male, female, two males, two females, past, present, ‘potential’. It becomes oddly mesmerising reading: what will the next variation bring? So, xiii. starts: ‘two of your parents stand before you.’ And there is a dream nature to many of these episodes.
I found a strange evenhandedness about the treatment — though the stories grow more and more outlandish, ‘xiv’ beginning: ‘you are standing in a coliseum watching all of your previous lovers fight to the death.’ The effect is cumulative, bound by its patterning, and by the careful balance between gravity and apparent levity. I was surprised — both by how entertained I was; and by how seriously, at the same time, I took it.