Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

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Snuffling round at possibilities

There is a delicious ‘not-quite’ tease that runs throughout Ramona Herdman’s pamphlet — ‘Such / a little inch of shared air / to transgress’ (from ‘Shave’ ) — and that air crackles with erotic charge that’s sometimes dark, sometimes connubial, sometimes out of bounds. Herdman is very acute on possibilities, as in the poem from which the pamphlet takes its title, ‘There is a thing’: 

The thing can sense a kindred thing
across a crowded room, can feel
potential heat in a withheld hand,
can strike a flint on the look
in a stranger’s eye

She is just as acute on the skitter around temptation, captured in her paean to the office flirtation, ‘Bless email and bless boredom and bless’:

[…] Oh, and bless language for its
ambiguity. Bless not-quite invitations
not quite enough to evidence a disciplinary

[….. ]
But mostly bless that ongoing precise
and dancing mental drafting
while dealing with spreadsheets, 

But her dalliance is not just with the adults in the office, the pub and on the commute who ‘back off / to [their] marriages / so cool / and so sweet’. She also traces early, diffused sexual stirrings. For example, in ‘Jill had two ponies’, Jill rides one of her steeds into 

                                  [….]        soft
deciduous English woodlands. Sun through
the branches in patches and flutes. Bracken.
Puddles copper-warm. Birdsong. The delayed

patter of rain from the canopy. Going in
and in and in.

And in ‘Tease’, a darker note threads under the playful celebration of arousal and sensuality, revealing its concomitant threat, although

we are all civilised here
it’s safe to bat the entendres back
return the odd glance

but I watch my back walking home
unlock lock the door quick

slip through
double bolt

like a matador feeling slow.

In ‘Comeuppance’, she wants to tell the young girls on the train drawing the gaze of the ‘old men’ that

they have every right to bare their lovely bare arms,
their ideal shoulders (no matter how cold it is out)
Every right to stretch our credulity as we’re reminded
how glorious an ordinary girl can be

[…..]

But also to say […]

The world is not as it should be, my loves.
Enjoy it.

Kathy Pimlott