The Goldfish, Ikhda Ayuning Maharsi Degoul
(illustrated by Emma Dai’an Wright)

The Emma Press, 2019   £10.00

Singing with sound

As well as being a visual treat with illustrations by Emma Dai’an Wright, this pamphlet sings with sound. You would not think that a goldfish would generate so much dialogue.

In ‘The Goldfish’ Ikhda effectively mimics the sound of bubbles in the water in the last line on the first page. We have become the goldfish!

blubbb blubb blub blu bl b bbbeat about the bbbbushhhh (gasp)

She also uses ‘O’ at the beginning of many lines in this poem. This again mimics a bubble shape. The world of fish is extended by lengthening the word fish: ‘fishesesesessesssssssssssss’. This is quite difficult to say! It is a bit like being caught up in a large wave, the swish as it meets the shore.

In ‘To the Gentle River’, the poet makes a stuttering start to ‘human’ putting twenty ‘h’ letters before the actual word. This enhances the aspects of ‘gibberish’ that she wants to create:

Hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh human
Buff! Bouf! Boo! Plouf!
Pop Off!

We are often in a world of exclamation in this pamphlet, but it is also interesting to note that these sounds are not all from one language. ‘Bouf!’ and ‘Plouf!’ seem French. Another feature throughout the pamphlet is the way Ikhda introduces foreign phrases into the text, adding an element of exoticism.

In ‘The origin’, Ikhda conjures up the movement of an amphibian with short abrupt verbs but then gives us two lines in French:

Jump and burp. Jump and burp.
Voyage entre la terre et mer.
Carpe diem pour de vrai!

Later in the same poem (which starts with Bucharest), Ikhda lists travel destinations, Italian ‘caffe coretto’ and the Japanese ‘awamori’. These references strengthen a feeling of wanderlust.

The last poem ‘Highball’ ends with ‘a staring ballet with my super ugly goldish’ and the Japanese words for ‘Watch out!’: ‘Abunai yo! Abunai yo! Abunai yo!

The poems have come full circle like a goldfish blowing bubbles in a goldfish bowl.

Sue Wallace-Shaddad