Entomology, Helen Clare

HappenStance Press, 2014 

Lines that pack a punch

On page 2 of Entomology there’s a poem I’ll never forget. ‘Assassin Bug’ amused and saddened me in equal measure. You might think it was about programmes on forensics, or killers. But then it would just be about TV. In fact, it’s much more.

This is how the poem ends:

                        [ ... ] no-one knows

why an assassin bug, after creeping
across a web stretching, snipping, bouncing up

a screen of vibrations, then mimicking
a trapped fly, gives its prey a gentle tap.

Or why when, before our marriage, he said
he was selfish I thought he exaggerated.

Spouses have been known to discover their partners are selfish after they’ve married them — but this ending is dynamic. How refreshing to hear someone recognising and admitting selfishness! How upsetting that (despite his warning) she underestimated the extent!

‘Bluebottle’ (page 12) is another bitter-sweet example of the poet’s ability to surprise. She includes lines that sweep me away:

My mother once told me they had my brother
because she found me in the conservatory
talking to bluebottles.

How many of us can identify with talking to insects, animals, imaginary friends? It’s a great image — even if not all our parents provided us with siblings as a result.

Helen Clare writes with careful craft. This pamphlet is a joy to read.

Sheila Wakefield