Menagerie, Cheryl Pearson (illustrations Amy Evans)The jacket is square and highly colourful. All of it is filled with a rich design in pinky orange, green, white and brown, with a large bird in the middle, perhaps a flamingo, and lots of different leaves, and perhaps water, different specks and lines and speckles and textures. The title is in huge white letters that looks hand drawn. They stretch from one side of the pamphlet to the other in the bottom third of the jacket. Below this in the same font but much smaller and quite hard to see are the words: POEMS BY CHERYL PEARSON. A simlar statement about the illustrator is below this, slightly smaller again. All text is white.

The Emma Press, 2020   £10.00

The colour of depths

Cheryl Pearson has an artistic eye and colour weaves through the poems like barely glimpsed shorthand. The poems arise from the natural world. They brim with creatures — among them the occasional human one. The poet is unafraid to move her lens in close. There’s much light and beauty here but also darkness and pain.

Blue washes through the first section. ‘Consider the Seahorse’ ends:

                                             he rides the blue light
bareback. No bits or blinkers. No harnesses. No gates.

I have a sense of being invited to take off, explore little known realms.

And I do. In ‘Octopus Tank, Torbay Aquarium’ the poet, watching an octopus untangle its tentacles in its blue-lit room, remembers starlings in Rome:

                                                      they rose
and fell in that same way, tied and re-tied Rome

in a bow, and I thought the knot at their centre
must be God. Here is God again in this stranger

All is not bright blueness though. ‘A Comb Jellyfish Swallows Another Comb Jellyfish’ ends:

                                                     And I am glad to be human,
and confused every time by the line between beauty and catastrophe.

And in ‘Great White’ the poet makes this message stark:

         But I would sink a mallet

in a thousand skulls to feed
my daughter       [ … ].

Hunger’s hunger.

The poet’s mood drops as the coast is left behind. Until, in ‘Peacock, Castle Howard’:

here! All the world’s colour on the rampart wall,
every fruit and jewel condensed. This is where
the summer went: blue sky, green grass, gold
flower to butter a throat.

The poet is adept at reminding us of the transitory nature of life, its beauty and also the basic need of all living things to feed to live. The final ‘Owl Poem’ pulls these strands together and ends quietly like a half-dreamed whisper:

           The owl knows. Blood
for a blue mood,

a hunger. See how they float. White and silent.
Snow falling on water.

Mary Wight