Girl, Falling, PB Hughes
Gatehouse Press, 2019 £6.00
Hughes’ choice of Neruda’s lines as part of the epigraph seem to me to set the tone for this debut pamphlet:
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure,
of someone who knows nothing
The poems explore the point of view of someone suffering from self-doubt, through the realm of water and the experience of inhabiting it. Lack of punctuation throughout creates the necessary fluidity, e.g. an open sea, a far-off horizon, the tumult of waves and rainfall.
In ‘Falling’, set in a bathing pond, the narrator ‘came to be weightless / for the first time / clear in her mind’. She realises that life has possibilities beyond self-hate, enabling her to ‘slip the pool’s purchase’. Images of water reinforce the mood:
the surface of the pond shredded
by rain the sepia water a second skin
In ‘Knee Deep in the North Sea’ the poet hesitantly seeks answers to uncertainty, assumptions, beliefs, to the ‘messy business’ of life in a series of abrupt stanzas. These suggest a confusion, an anxiety, a frustration about self in relation to the wider world.
Water-based images flood the lines: a horizon, bait, ‘the sea as a sock or a promise’, fish, sand, beach… ending on the unfinished line:
Take out the metaphors and
The poem ‘Rain’, one of my favourites in the pamphlet, vibrates with the power of a storm. It is laden with watery film shots and a strong sense of movement. We see the ‘luminous green lightning’ and feel ‘our shoulders shedding the weight / of waterlogged coats’.
There is hope, a raw sense of being in love with being alive in the moment:
all I could smell was rain
rain in your hair
on your skin