I Want to Be a Dog Like My Sister, Belinda Bradley

Self-published, (available on Amazon,) 2018  £4.00 + £2.80

Poetry as suitcases

These poems are clear, and dark, and struck me as unusually full — every clause packed with nuggets of information. ‘I wouldn’t have gone if I had known / there would be bears’, starts ‘Haliburton Forest’; or a bit later ‘The room is packed for the wolf talk.’ Most lines contain their own complete clause, which adds to this impression, I think. An almost staccato tone? 

‘Longhouse in Donegal’ begins:

He proposes to me as the sea
comes in on Banna beach.
I am eating a chocolate brownie
and drop it in the sand.

The pieces are quite stark: not overly laden with adjectives or emotion, but densely packed with their characteristically flat statements of fact. Like items of clothing lain in a suitcase.

It is 37 degrees,
the priest has disappeared
with the passport control officer.
  (‘Outside JFK’)

The poet also seems very natural writing in blocks. Quatrains and tercets, which she often employs, make neat suitcase-like units for her forceful, narrative poetry.

I like the poem ‘The Twin’. This begins:

For as long as he can remember,
before he could form proper sentences,
he sensed something was not right
like a bow missing an arrow.

The whole poem pivots around its title — which provides the missing piece in the jigsaw of the poem. This is the second verse:

Mum tells him on his tenth birthday,
when all the party guests have left.
Her voice is a lost kite,
disappearing into the distance.

Even on occasions like this — of which there are plenty — where the image is an abstraction, it’s stated with such certainty, I experience it as fact.

Charlotte Gann