Figure a Motion, Jazmine Linklater

Guillemot Press, 2020   £6.00

Compressed response

Jazmine Linklater manipulates language right from the outset of her pamphlet, Figure a Motion, with the uneasy syntax in the title. Is ‘Figure’ a verb or a noun? I was struck by her compression of language, form and thought in these striking ekphrastic poems.

In the prose poem ‘Atargatis: Her Salt I’, the description of the art work on the floor includes the phrase ‘dried sea-foam, bottled, compressed tight making lightless’. The poet forces the syntax into new structures: ‘Rolled horizons in multiple melting mist into solid & preserved in smoked air’.

She also uses repetition in an interesting way throughout the pamphlet. In ‘Little Nothing’, she repeats ‘her self out’, often doubling the word ‘out’, and also doubles the word ‘back’:

& she works her self out out in to the garden
blackens her bracken to soil back back to the earth

In ‘Victory (two ways)’, she deliberates on edges, seams and joins, repeating the words in differently constructed sentences at the beginning of parts I and II.

Four short one stanza poems, each with the title ‘Pulse Pulse’, act as a threaded pulse between other poems. At one stage, it feels like shots are being fired. There is strong alliteration of ‘p’ in the second line of the second poem: ‘Trip plose stip tup pulse pulse powers’.

‘Mine’ is a beautifully lyrical poem where, once again, there is reference to compression:

Compressed, there’s no scattering
                 light, no sky

Also a prose poem, ‘Inanna – Her Face’ has an almost overwhelming build-up of descriptive elements. In part I we read: ‘lapis lazuli sky sky pomegranate neons, chanting moss breathes breathing moss’ and in part II: ‘corners snagged sentences spilt sickly clovers slick juniper sticky’. There are no articles and definite articles to ease the reader’s way. The form allows no white space to interrupt expression of feeling.

I’m left in no doubt that this poet feels a strong response to the art works she writes about: she configures her words with such emotional intensity.

Sue Wallace-Shaddad