A Fury of Yellow, Robin Thomas
Eyewear Publishing, 2016 £5.00
Poems can contain the ordinariness of life very well. Let’s be honest: much of a poet’s life isn’t even on the lowest slopes of Mount Olympus. It is rooted in the daily round, the common task. My life is not dramatic or exciting. So Robin Thomas’s ‘Movables’ — the final poem in The Fury of Yellow — spoke to me:
It’s Sunday morning. I’m leafing through bills, letters, flyers.
My laptop’s on, my cheque book’s ready. Pen? Here it is.
The Observer must wait while I sort this crap.
Recognisable and relatable-to; it’s his life, of course, but, looking around, my desk looks equally cluttered. The directness in his language, the short sentences (six in those three lines) and the sheer ordinariness of time and place add up to a compelling opening. Compelling? Yes, because it’s transparent; also (because it’s a poem and my eyes can see it fills a page) I trust that it will offer a bit more. But what?
I’m sitting at the desk Dad went out and bought
seven homes ago.
Ah. Today’s life sits — literally, in this case — on the past. ‘Seven homes ago’ hints at a history of moving, uprooting, of changes. It’s specific; how many of us count our past in the number of homes we’ve lived in?
Furniture can’t speak but it holds involuntary associations and memories. That’s where Robin Thomas takes us, via a longer, indented stanza. It’s a rich stream of consciousness, running through teenage angst, school homework, a teacher’s sarcasm, the voice of Dad calling him down to dinner, a girlfriend. Thoughts and voices, simultaneously jumbled and logical, jostle underneath the surface of the opening line. It’s a lifetime’s chatter, from then to now, sketched in — because that’s how memory works — until the present breaks in:
[…] Must call about that bed. Sun in my eyes.
Draw curtains. Glance up. Grandad’s wardrobe, mine now.
Family deaths, this suggests, but doesn’t explain.
Ordinary life is rich, full, complicated and bound into the present. Robin Thomas, in this textured poem, shows how.
D A Prince