Hinge, Alycia Pirmohamed
ignitionpress, 2020 £5.00
A poetry with space at its centre
‘And everything you have written,’ says the speaker in ‘Welcome’, ‘is haunted by those extra spaces between lines, / your every impulse to add another gap.’ Hinge is a pamphlet where the spaces, the silences, speak as loudly as the words — if not more so.
The opening poem, ‘My Body is a Forest’, uses space as a kind of puncturing, a wounding which breaks the poem apart. Wide spaces are used to split ‘home’ from ‘this body’. The speaker’s definition of a ‘daughter’ is given in shattered pieces:
A daughter which is to say an inherited vanishing
through the slit of a dream.
This is a poetry of migration, of crossing borders both physical and emotional. It is poetry seeking (in ‘My Inheritance is to Long for [ ]’) to ‘quell’ a ‘need for wholeness’. The spaces make emotional wounds literal. In this case, a painful loss of identity is caused by the speaker’s father’s decision to emigrate. ‘Your father is where the act / of missing something first took root’ (‘Homeward’).
In Hinge, though, space is more than a wound. It is also an act of reaching out, an attempt to stretch across distance; it is a ‘quest to belong’ (‘House of Prayer’).
In ‘My Inheritance is to Long for [ ]’, empty square brackets are used to explore the speaker’s fading grasp of her grandmother’s language, how it ‘slips and quivers between’ her ‘teeth,’ how a ‘jar of cloves’ ‘scatters like the word for [ ]’. Space here is a yearning, an attempt to ‘become a bridge that crosses the chasm’ (‘Love Poem with Elk and Punctuation’).
A hinge is a break, a bend upon (and around which) other things depend and revolve. Pirmohamed’s poems use space as a centrifugal point around which they spin. Space is the wound these poems seek to heal, the lyric for which they are continually and beautifully searching. Aching for transcendence and wholeness, the speaker addresses her God — ‘Bismillah, I reach for you again’ (‘On My Tongue’).