Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

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Floundering in the currents

This pamphlet tell a delicate tale of a relationship’s tidal sway, summed up in the title poem ‘Collision’. The poems are run through with a thread of sea-based images. Each has the effect of allowing the reader to feel the pull and ebb of tides, the movement of desire and yearning.

In ‘Like a Lover’ the sea seduces humans and they ‘go running, / barefoot across hot shingle’ towards her call. She ‘whispers in waves’ and ‘pools around their bodies’. We are caught in the motion of the sea where we ‘float weightless’.

The reader already mesmerised by such evocative language, ’His Sweater’ extends the metaphor. The garment is described ‘as blue as his eyes, blue as the sea’. Sensuality spills from lines such as

Salt hides
in the Aran twists;
the diamond stripe of his chest.

Love is implied as strong and permanent in the line: ‘This stitch is stronger than the sea wall.’

However, ambivalence enters in ‘How Will We Read The Maps’. The narrator is found dealing with her lover’s desire to travel: ‘nautical miles sailed will swirl / beneath his thumbprints’.

He will signpost markers on his body
where waves swarmed over, battered the hull.

Her insistence on home in a repeated ‘here, here, here’ is movingly desperate.

Why such intensity? ‘Pisces’ looks back to the poet’s origin — invoking the fragility of her mother’s pregnancies and the narrator’s birth, enhancing the sense of vulnerability underwritten by the sea’s power:

Then, one soft March I swam
against history, made the coast.

These lines sharpen the intensity of the adults’ coupling.

Despite such hope, the poem ‘Collison’ explores difficulties in the blossoming relationship, in the starting over in ‘our broken boat’, the reaching out for ‘splintered oars’. It speaks of a wreck, a complete running aground, almost ‘pretty in its salt and grit.’

The reader is steeped in the salt and tides of this pamphlet, a compelling and vibrant experience.

Maggie Mackay