Cherry Blossom, Derek ParkesThe jacket is white. The title appears in the top quarter, centred, in display caps that have an advertising zing to them, one word per line. Cherry is bright read; blossom is black. Below this in tiny black italics the word poems. The author's name is in small seriffed caps half way down the jacket. Below this a photograph of a shoe brush and black polish, positioned to the left and disappearing off the cover to the left. The wooden part of the brush is the same bright red as the word CHERRY. The name of the press is centred in tiny red caps right at the foot of the jacket.

Red Squirrel Press, 2019   £6.00

Life through a lens

Reading through Cherry Blossom by Derek Parkes feels like being taken through a photo-album of snap-shots from a speaker’s life. The author presents us with vignettes of family and loved-ones, nostalgic and current, in straightforward fashion. Nearest and dearest are presented along with their frustrating idiosyncrasies, but they are in this album because they’re loved.

We are left to make connections in our own minds in response to these portraits. The opening poem (‘Diving in the Shallow End’) is delivered by a speaker whose body forms a ‘fleshy Zed’ in preparation. Taken in context with the other poems from the collection, it’s an exhortation to take on those challenges we may fear more as we age. The image of the speaker, balanced in trepidation on the edge of the pool, might prompt us to react, each to our own.

Other poems such as ‘Cherry Blossom’, ‘Burns Night’, and ‘Bookends’ present windows on love and loss. The ‘Black Tie’ once preserved in cellophane after its occasional use, now hangs on the tie rack with others. It is ‘slowly moving to the front as I age / and death becomes part of life.’

The speaker’s ‘Sisters’ are captured at a family reunion looking like age-old tormentors. And that this is taken in good-humour is neatly presented. End-rhyme is not used in this collection, with the exception of one poem and here — only in the summing up:

like when they say
(and they say it all the time),
that my poetry isn’t poetry
because it doesn’t rhyme.

The poet also uses a specific technique occasionally to shift us from the still of the snapshot to something more film-like, as in ‘Pimm’s No 1’:

She dropped news with the ice cubes.
The girls
            were with
                           their father
                                       that weekend.
A sprig of mint grew in the glass.

But ‘Tuscan Eve’ is perhaps for me the best example of the poet’s skill in transporting us through depiction. The scene is drawn in detail. Everything here is contentment — even the gecko’s chirruping is a ‘clockwork love song.’ Quite so — a moment captured with perfect timing

Mhairi Owens