Fair Ground, Penny Sharman
Yaffle Press, 2018 £6.50
[Available from the author: https://pennysharman.co.uk]
In this collection spun from squint dreams and spun fable, the poet’s trick of upending our perceptions is to lead us to a reassessment of our own realities. The familiar is constantly subject to a spangled scrutiny. In ‘On Machars Penninsular’, the speaker seems fey, but don’t be fooled, she’s grounded in the here and now:
She finds her totem by a rock pool, a sea horse effigy,
an elder twig, a gentle thing with eyes and horns,
a twisted body, an ancient recipe for recovery,
to float on saltiness surrounding this land of trouble.
Sometimes ‘the land of trouble’ is England. In ‘Lakeland’ we journey through to Wast Water screes and a journey of mature imagination:
the shadow and rain that niggles this older brain with thoughts
of abseiling or sky-diving, crashing down through all the shit
and rubble to find a piece of clear quartz or a nugget of fool’s gold
knowing how it sparkles, a light bulb in a cooling heart.
At others, we are far from home, but still with our own kind. In Flamenco, it is human beings who whip up the whole of creation, from dawn to chocolate cake, and boil it down ‘to wet lips / and dry mouths’. In ‘You may have seen me’ the distance travelled is corporeal: the speaker is a wild horse. But the thoughts of this creature who can stand ‘still like ghosts / from lost generations’ are imbued with a longing that is all too familiarly human:
When I stand still on the headland,
all I see is big water and unreachable land.
In the final poem, ‘Cutting Rice’ the poet makes her direct appeal to the reader:
Let me hear your earthquakes, leopard spotted appetites
for belonging. Bury them in my palm. Let me bring blossoms,
the white-white of petals into your earthly hours.
It’ s an invitation to turn back to the beginning of the pamphlet, start over. Why not? A reality check on your own reality is what’s on offer. That’s quite something.