Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

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The Attraction of Pauses

The title poem opens with an image that shows the fast pace of life. The first line runs over into the second like the world whizzing round, faster and faster, when ‘all that’s familiar sweeps from touch’. A love of life shines in the determination to keep up, keep one’s balance, but it is the pauses that catch my interest. Here a slowing down comes with parenthesis and line-break:

                              You can’t know how deftly I’m spinning
                     or how I love anything that hesitates — pauses —
                              sticks with me a minute […].

The body ‘pauses, puzzled’, in the following poem ‘Running’, and this offers a sharp contrast to the electric switched-on joy of action in the opening lines. Then there’s the quiet stillness in ‘Afternoon’, when ‘The wool rolls down. The needles droop’ to the soothing sound of ‘dull doves in a neighbouring wood’. The poem ends with a delicate, barely perceptible movement, a pausing insect — ‘One lacewing trembles at the netted glass’. 

‘Lunar’ makes me think of other well-known moon poems. But it holds its own against them all — even stands out — because of the loveliness of the look, the sound of the line and the image of a mid-morning moon ‘leaning becalmed in a lunar dawdle’. The phrase ‘lunar dawdle’ is unforgettable.  The ‘dawdle’ creates a compelling pause, completely unlike the night before with ‘Moon [...] racing round, handed cloud to cloud, ice-hot’.

The penultimate poem ‘What the bird said’ reminds me of the declaration in the title poem: ‘how I love anything that hesitates — pauses — / sticks with me a minute’. But now the ‘little parchment leaf’ of ‘Honeycomb’ is replaced by a bird that pauses to sing. The immediacy and directness of the image is a corrective to the ‘death [ ...] stuck hard as a gall’ in the poet’s throat:

A robin came, glancing,
turned the puff of himself
towards me, rosehip or copperleaf
according to light;
opened his beak on a winter breath,
shook out tremors of music.

Enid Lee