Hurtz, Jasmine Gardosi

Verve Poetry Press, 2019   £7.50

Redefining colour

There is a great deal I could rhapsodise about in this clever, funny and original pamphlet, but what stands out is Jasmine Gardosi’s masterful use of colour.

The poet redefines the palette, bringing emotions, situations and characters to life. ‘Pain scientist’ describes a burn creating a purple cloud. ‘Husband’ refers to the ‘smudged purple’ and ‘mottled grey’ of bruising as ‘He rubs off on her’; these colours allow Gardosi to talk in code about the violence and confusion of domestic abuse. In ‘Burgundy’, the poet explores what we presume is depression by renaming it:

When people ask how I am today,
I tell them I have burgundy.
Sometimes I feel fine, but I know —
deep down — I have burgundy.

This poem encourages us to think about how language defines us and the world, and what can be communicated by relating to things in a different way.

‘You’ve probably never heard of it’ incorporates definitions of colours with great comic charm. For example, ‘lemonchiffonis the shade of ‘the delicate balance of gratefulness and resentment’, ‘smaragdine’ ‘is ‘the colour of constipation’ and ‘eburnean’, ‘if elephant tusks had feelings.’

In ‘Colouring books are good for therapeutic reasons’, Gardosi calls upon our understanding of colour learned from childhood, and manipulates what is usual and accepted to discuss complex themes and issues:

You make the house black.
You turn your eye purple.
You colour your arms red.

You make the people blue.

‘For reference 2.0’ takes this a step further, juxtaposing two emotions with the same shade:

The tenderness you feel when you say ‘I do’
is the same pink as early-stage arthritis.

We understand the colour, the emotions — both joyous and painful — and somehow, this deepens our understanding of the intentions of the poet.

Gardosi’s creation of a universal palette of emotions provides a new way of thinking about colour, and how we describe and label our world in order for it to be understood. In Hurtz, the poet has found a fun yet powerful new way of writing about feelings — the things we can’t see or truly define.

Vic Pickup