I Wish I Had More Mothers, Ann Gray

Smith/Doorstop, 2018 £5.00

A binding together

I love the idea of the OPOI review, yet in this case it was difficult to choose One Point Of Interest. I think this was because I found it almost impossible to distentangle any one aspect of the collection from another. And that was a positive experience. The poems bind things together in a way which resists the privileging of one feature or perspective.

So how is this binding together happening? It’s partly in the unity and authenticity of the subject matter — the  exploration of slowly losing a mother who is slowly losing language and a sense of self. The poems tell stories, hopping over missing parts but not ignoring what’s missing. They bind the negative with the positive, loss with abundance, sadness with joy. A wholly thoughtful use of language eloquently expresses the importance of language in the face of its loss. They are poems of integration about states of disintegration.

The binding together happens also in the form of the poems. Corners are neatly tucked in, structure supporting meaning and vice versa, as for instance in the fine sonnet ‘Getting Out’ which so beautifully holds the ‘muddled, random’ within a neat square of fourteen lines, binding the broken and the colourful, past and present, observation and emotion.

Questions and answers help with the binding, too — there’s a roundness in ‘Ghazal: time is gone’ because the grief of the opening ‘Was there a time when I could talk to you?’ is echoed and turned by the final line’s acceptance ‘the time is gone when I could talk to you.’ The strange completeness and balance of form and content, beginning and end, both defines and defies the fragmentary nature of dementia.

I could go on — details, lists, a spendidly judged use of repetition — all these things contribute to the binding in. But then this might not be an OPOI review.

Clare Best