Heart Murmur, Emma StorrThe jacket is postbox red. All text is left justified, italic and white. The title is large and in the top two inches on one line, stretching nearly edge to edge. The author's name, quite small, is placed just above centre of the page. A small logo is positioned bottom right.

Calder Valley Poetry, 2019      £7.00

A humorous touch

The humorous approach of this pamphlet elevates my mood. 

The poet, having been a GP, well knows the foibles and worries people experience when they go to their doctor. She handles them with gentle and understanding humour, as in the opening poem, ‘Differential’:

She has ‘saved it all up’ for me.
She flourishes a list on lined paper

‘Doctor Jekyll Goes to Work’ captures the image of a professional preparing for the medical role:

Foundation of caring expression,
blusher to highlight those
anxious cheekbones

This is followed by a snapshot of the doctor stripping it all off at home:

At home, at night,
his face disappears with
wet wipes.

Even the most serious poems are lightened by unexpected forms. ‘It Starts with a Fit’, for example, is deftly written as a villanelle. This gives the poem a sing-song rhythm that contrasts with the seriousness of the subject:

it starts with a fit out of the blue

you lose some words repeat a few
you grin and laugh I want to cry.

An ode, typically a lyrical poem of praise, is an unlikely form for ‘every patient’s motion’, but it’s exactly this contrast which creates such a surprise:

Oh do not wonder at the joy with which we view the stool.
To ask about its many forms should be the surgeon’s rule.

The title poem (‘Heart Murmur’) beautifully links the heart (as a muscle) with human emotions:

It speeds up when I climb hills,
slow dances during sleep

until it’s hijacked, slewed by lust,
the chemicals of longing

swirling through its chambers.

Throughout this collection, Emma Storr surprises and intrigues me. The way she plays with form, as a way of contrasting seriousness with humour, draws me in. But this playfulness doesn’t detract from the caring tone that shines through.

Olivia Dawson