Stitch, Samuel Tongue

Tapsalteerie, 2018  £5.00

A stitch that binds

Samuel Tongue’s pamphlet seems filled with concern for our age. Its restless energy walks an edge between civilisation and the wild animals inhabiting many of its poems. For example, ‘chew it over’, starts the culmination of ‘Mountain Hare’, before brilliantly binding twin fears of white supremacy and the climate crisis:

but time is dripping loud. ground is already full-
colour, in melt. whiteness has had its cold season. and you are seen.

All is held together, within this collection, by the stitching work of poetry. Filled with internal rhymes and rhythm these poems form a kind of skein to bind against our ruin.

Here’s a snatch from ‘Containerization’:

draper’s dummies gummy
bears in a million colours and flavours favours for rich CEOs everything
pitching in the ocean's swell like a fat ark of everything we value

Here literal sense gives way to something felt. It’s stitched, like a bunch of debris to the inside of a net.

In fact a number of these poems seemed trawled — quite literally in cases, and pertinently. This is from ‘[Notes on the Anthropocene] / what survives of us [] fracture record’:

middens of coke cans open as oyster shells /
                                uncut umbilicals of trash in the sacrifice zones /

we can’t escape it
we already taste it in our mouths       [what survives of us]
                                                                like rust

And even the pamphlet itself is bound by form. The first and last poems, ‘A Tasmanian Devil Speaks to a Settler’, and ‘Seasonal’, look quite different on the page. But both close with a rhyming tercet — see below. Don’t these, themselves, provide a kind of stitching?

dragons and devils, gods that bite back.
Why carry them here in your over-stuffed pack?
Lay them out. I’ll snap shut on them; hear them crack.

to sound at the last, to signal the change
that brings the dead groaning from their graves.
I shall watch to see what withers, what stays.

Charlotte Gann