Bookmarks, D A Prince

HappenStance, 2018  £5.00

Life in microcosm

Just before Christmas I interviewed Peter Messer, a painter whose work I much admire. He revisits, again and again, the same knot of lanes and corners — and I was reminded of our conversation when reading D A Prince’s Bookmarks. Her collection strays much further afield but it too offers history in microcosm: her frame, that of tickets and stubs and scraps grabbed and utilised over years as bookmarks. Working now, backwards and intuitively along her shelves, she traces a layering of decades of lived history.

I love the ‘Manifesto’ at the start of the collection, spoken by the bookmarks. ‘See us bristling along your bookcase.’ I like how it acknowledges, without this being a problem, that it’s through the unfinished books, (broken promises), as well as the ones we know we love, that life tacks its meandering course.

Her lens is tilted in different, and interesting, directions poem by poem. One pulls together a whole pile of tickets united only by the fact each has now resurfaced as bookmark. Others follow individual ones back to their remembered source, each retracing bringing its own new discoveries. ‘Supermarket till receipt’, sees the poet poring over ancient details:

But there’s so much more.
Served by Ryan (till number 2 that morning),
zero VAT, store number 446 (Co-op)

D A Prince anyway, always, strikes me as a fine sleuth-poet — and ‘Shopping list’ provides further, enjoyable evidence: ‘what / is this shopping list (one side) / and list of names (reverse) / written in a scrawl so nearly mine / I’m halted?’

Throughout, there’s a warmth, as well as a ‘we’ who’ve shared history. I love ‘Postcard (from)’ which recalls a postcard-bookmark’s first arrival, and how ‘on a day / light couldn’t open, your Matisse / burst in with drenching sunlight’.

The final ‘Note’ is a gentle acknowledgement of long shared intimacy and homelife. ‘There is so much to explain’, it concludes, wryly. Exploring it, however — through the microcosm of a lifetime’s motley collection of randomly-located bookmarks — as this poet well knows — is worth its weight in explanations.

Charlotte Gann