Pale cover with blue lettering and central image: a blue circle with a white dog and spots like snowThe Uniform Factory, Louise Fazackerley

Verve Poetry Press, 2020   £7.50

Soldiering on

The rhythm of soldiering echoes throughout this pamphlet. Even the striking Landays, which pepper the work, form a sort of repetition – in the sense these couplets are traditionally passed orally from woman to woman.

In the poem ‘uniform’ repetition works powerfully: ‘sold yer hoodie sold yer no mark sold yer hoodwinked sold yer no chance’. The sound of gunfire is evoked in ‘Front Line’ by the words ‘Kerpink, pink, pink shots’.

‘Daddy’s boat’ is a poignant poem about hanging on to hope by sending a daughter’s homemade boat in a shoe box to Afghanistan. The undercurrent of the mother’s fear is expressed in the lines:

somebody stop this happening to us
somebody stop this happening to me

There are several instances of almost obsessive repetition in ‘Weather Report. ‘I’m washing my hands’ is repeated three times. It reminded me of Lady Macbeth’s ‘Out, damned spot!’. ‘I can’t open the door’ is also repeated four times, reinforcing a sense of powerlessness.

‘Bolton’s Party’ uses Kipling’s words to end four stanzas: ‘Lest we forget — lest we forget!’.  The whole effect is to add urgency to the preceding phrases: ‘don’t go yet’, ‘don’t leave us yet’, ‘he’s not gone yet’, ‘we can’t go yet’.

I liked the clever use of repetition in the final poem ‘Remembrance Someday’. The poem starts with ‘ticktockticktock’, then we get ‘can-can’, ‘frou-frou’, ‘Tut tut tut’. The word ‘white’ features twelve times in the seventh stanza including:

               the white of the eyes of one, two,
one, two, one, two, one, two, three boys
who you saved, who were supposed to survive

The repetition of numbers echoes the sound of soldiers marching but also suggests the uncertainty of numbers saved. Later in the poem, Fazackerley captures the futility of war’s repetitive cycle in the image of a gramophone playing:

the same story again and again
a broken, red record, round and round.

The poem and pamphlet end with the image of washing hands again (repeated three times). It powerfully reinforces the fact that one cannot escape the blood, the guilt, the impact of war on individuals and their families.

Sue Wallace-Shaddad