Deliberate Sunlight, Jean Taylor
Black Agnes Press, 2019 £5.00
Writing with clarity
Jean Taylor surveys both what she sees and her own experience with a calm clarity. She is often dispassionate, but never cold. Whether it is the landscape, or her observations of others, she remains objective. ‘Genetic Variations’ is a summary of the inheritance she shares with her siblings. Beyond the list, she hints at more.
In ‘Glass Houses’ she describes a street where a woman has ‘delegated the work / of ordinary living.’ She wryly notes
[…] the watchers
draw curtains furtively,
hiding their own entanglements.
When responding to her own life and circumstances, this level assessment can quietly dismantle the reader. Taylor surveys her situation with wit, a sense of her place, and an absence of self-pity. Her view has self-knowledge; her approach, application. In ‘Summer Blood’ she describes this considered approach. It is a habit of long practice:
I shall sit beside her, stiff-backed
against gaudy stripes, studying my book
for the possibility of being a woman.
Many of these poems interrogate and coolly acknowledge loss. For example, in ‘You’ she describes ‘Waking that night to find you cold’ before she observes that she had not thought ‘to test / for murmuration of pulse or breath’. It is only at the end of the poem that she allows herself to write ‘my beloved — you.’
In ‘Mayday’ she uses formal stanzas and sustained metaphor to articulate loss:
Living without him is like flying
She does not wallow. Her language echoes her approach; crisp, disciplined. She is self-knowing and her zest for life, sense of the rational and of possibility resurfaces:
Perhaps she will master the joystick
fly over the mountain
There are poems of recovery, and of hope, again objectively described. The final piece, ‘Sunlight’, again has that clear-sighted, dispassionate view of former gifts of flowers as a preface to her current purchases of daffodils — for herself.
scented with guilt and petrol.
She buys them for the pleasure,
of watching them
These are beautiful, elegant poems.