Little Red Hat, Joan Lennon
The Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2019 £2.00
Who is in control?
Micro-pamphlets can be tricky things to write about when it comes to looking for a central theme — surely the poet just puts their best poems in. However, in Little Red Hat all four poems feature a continual questioning of power: who is actually in control?
In the title poem, ‘Complete with Little Red Hat’, we meet the ‘organ-grinder’s monkey’ ‘scouring the crowd / to the full arc of its chain’. We’re expecting the standard-issue power relationship of monkey serving organ grinder, but Lennon has sold us a dummy here. The second stanza bears repeating in full to show us by how much:
The organ grinder’s monkey
retraces its chain,
returns to the grinder’s shoulder
to pour the poison in his ear
with delicate precision,
and wind him up again.
In ‘Logan Stone, Scab, Shipwreck’, we meet a series of personae that have the appearance of control, but in reality don’t. For example, the corestone (a block of granite that has been separated from bedrock) declares itself to be a solid thing carved by ‘the scrape and drag of glacier’. But ‘at the least touch of your hand’, announces the stone, ‘I will rock’.
In the third poem, ‘Lava, Like Sansom’, you’d expect the lava to be laying waste to all in its path (a ‘Red power crawls down / the shoulders of the rock’). But when it meets the shore, the ocean’s words make clear who has the power now:
I will take your heat
I will shear your strength
between my waves’ blades.
However, it’s the final piece that really lands the punch.
However, it’s the final piece that really lands the punch. In ‘Dance to the Wall’, we’re given a feeling of control — at first. With an excellent reference to Ginger Rogers’ legendary dancing skill, we find ourselves dancing ‘Backwards and in heels’ / […] towards the future.’ However, by the end of the poem, while we may not be careening out of control, things have certainly changed:
Light on our feet
and clodhopper alike,
at some point
we will all
hit the wall.
Much in the same way that a very small amount of explosive can cover a lot of ground, the four poems in this micro-pamphlet have managed to have the equivalent impact.