Blow This, Anna-May Laugher
Flarestack Poets, 2018 £6.00
A voice for the small creatures
Anna-May Laugher’s pamphlet is dedicated to her daughter who died. So it is with that in mind that one begins ‘Absolute certainty regarding a vacated bedroom’, which is about the absences that hold the memory of a person. The writer determines ‘I know I must make this room other.’ However, the tone is so spare that one wonders whether the narrator believes it:
Once I’ve done so,
I can know the place
with neither scent nor stain,
think nothing of that room again.
Can we really rearrange spaces to eradicate loss?
This melancholy tone runs throughout many of the poems. There is a sense of folklore and the uncanny, such as in ‘Selkie’ and ‘House Share’, which is populated with spiders, deformed mice, moths and ladybirds. In ‘House Share’, the narrator asks ‘How small should creatures be to die ignored?’. This seems to be the poet’s central question.
Laugher depicts other vulnerable characters too. In ‘Our House’, we watch, with dreadful poignancy, as children cope when their erratic mother abandons them:
The meter click
announced the dark of unpaid bills.
The urgency of the poems gathers pace: a woman trapped in sexual exploitation (‘Re-cycled’), her waxen shape remoulded again and again; a family in a war-torn city; a refugee arriving to little welcome:
Post-traumatic lettered snow,
which could not hold a story or a word,
but fell in floats between the bodies of the lost.
A number of poems have taken inspiration from visual art, and Laugher’s language is similarly physical with descriptions of pelts, meat and muscle. The details are bare and often heart-breaking. Laugher is deft at leaving the audience to read between the lines, to devastating effect. These are calls to see the vulnerable, with little resolution other than having their experience acknowledged. None are too small to be beyond the poet’s notice.