understudies for air, Daisy Lafarge
Sad Press, August 2017 £6.00
The lull of long sentences
The lull of long sentences is just the beginning. There’s also the lack of capital letters beginning them. And the last line of each poem ends without punctuation (except for ‘falsification air’ which ends with a question). It is as if this were one long ride, and Daisy Lafarge has much to tell us in her breathy style.
I learned to trust her voice after I considered her introductory page where she quoted Anaximenes — ‘The source of all things is air — with no full stop. If understanding air is understanding the world, then the poet is breaking the world down in manageable increments for us. Each poem is titled as a type of air. She draws us in, tumbling language while unapologetically staying within her frame.
In ‘falsification air’, she begins, ‘what can I pass on, you ask, / about methods of detecting the air?’ She ends the poem: ‘consider the sheets of air / gridlocked in double glazing, now / are you beginning to understand?’ I was.
I admired ‘childhood air’ where she talks about the vibes you pick up as a kid, without the vocabulary to convey or understand them — or indeed even as an adult when you try to re-live them — ‘attempting to hack memory with nothing but an egg timer, / the stuff comes apart like fiberglass.’
Symbols reappear: egg timer and hour glass — the slippage of time? And all types of grids, scientific mapping, yes, but also gridlock as paralysis, as in that double glazed window. Her talent for just enough narrative while layering the abstract with the concrete kept me grounded.
In ‘eclosion air’, she writes about the husk of a world which ‘had fallen from its pedestal’. Then she reassures us:
stayed the same: the smell of cordite, shadows
of hands dancing over coffee tables, the walk-of-shame
lino in staff kitchens, the smutting of dun-colour set
into pavements, as if the asphalt were filled with seeds.
I love that lino; I can’t help it. This is a brave collection.