Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

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Winning poetry: recipe for readers

Emma Simon is a winning poet in an era of poetry competitions. What ingredients in her work provide a recipe for success?

Variety is part of it. She uses a range of forms, and mixes long and short lines. This variation spices up the reading and reinforces the meaning.

Titles and openings are also key factors. With an interesting array of titles, her poems are strengthened by engaging first lines, which help draw the reader in, for example: ‘You know me by my thwak’;  ‘Some peddle false promises; I peddle poisons [ ... ]’.

There’s also a rich fusion of language and musicality that enriches the rhythm (‘the lantern jaw and the low-slung axe’; ‘Lozenge-like eyes that slowly blink.’)

Subject variety and accessibility are other key ingredients (along with effective use of metaphor). These take the poems from the apparent humdrum or domestic to a more significant level. I’m thinking in particular of ‘Quantum Sheep’ where ‘sheep merges into sheep’ and

We follow one another over fences,
wave after wave of us, subparticles
of imagination, waiting to be discovered.

The pamphlet’s blurb uses a well-known phrase from Louis MacNeice’s poem ‘Snow’ to describe the poetry as ‘the drunkenness of things being various’. There is a place for this.

Jeffrey Loffman