Androgyny, Kevin Reid

4Word, 2018    £5.99 +p&p

The art of ending well

In his pamphlet Androgyny, Kevin Reid writes deceptively simple poems with an economy of expression that belies the high emotion running through the work. They pack a powerful punch — particularly in their final lines — which makes them memorable. ‘Goodbye to Curiosity’, for instance, a description of a complex relationship over time, ends with the observation:

last night’s naked farewell was
smooth and conversational.

The poems often concern the physical. So, ‘Remembering Youth’ closes: ‘A photograph keeps you close. Still, / when playing myself, I bring you closer.’ In ‘Broken Cello’, Reid uses the extended metaphor of a cello to describe a body, ending with:

String free, I’m told
your bridge is now bare.
Unplayable, your tail piece
no longer vibrates.

I particularly liked ‘This Woman Needs a Man like a Fish needs a Bicycle’ with its water and fish imagery. It ends with the strong statement:

Unattached most often
this woman’s her own.

Other poems end with simply expressed lines. The title poem, for example, ends ‘I’m barely human.’ And ‘I sang to no one today’ closes with: ‘love songs, no thanks.’ These lines are, however, full of undercurrents which leave us reflecting on the narrator’s situation.

The last poem ‘Bless Me Father’ is formed of one quatrain which manages to question the nature of sin, unpack relationships and show self-examination, all in only four lines. It ends with ‘I’m not sorry’ — which could be taken as the poet’s comment on life in all these poems. They express truths, often uncomfortable, but very real. And each poem’s ending serves as a springboard, for the reader, to another glimpse of understanding. As Reid finishes ‘Judas Iscariot’s Suicide Note’: ‘That last kiss was more than silver.’

Sue Wallace-Shaddad