The Hoopoe’s Eye, Mark Carson

Wayleave Press, 2019   £5.00

The best poems, in the best order

Coleridge described poetry as ‘the best words in the best order’, but in The Hoopoe’s Eye Mark Carson shows us that the positioning of each poem within a sequence is equally significant.

The pamphlet begins with a private correspondence informing us that there has been a flood. From here, the poet takes us by the hand to walk his journey, step by step, poem by poem.

He begins with ‘The New Footbridge’ which ‘springs across the river like a slice of rainbow,’ followed by a stanza of doubt at its strength and, in the third, the rain begins to fall. Later in the poem comes this:

the water flooding over terraces, creeping up doorframes,
sluicing through the sockets […] lifting tables
chairs cupboards sofas floating in a tangle to the ceiling

There is no time for punctuation, such is the speed of destruction. The poet finishes with a powerful image: ‘From the broken windows / of the flooded houses water spews.’ There is so much water, it is pouring out of the house.

The second poem ‘Nothing prepares you’ is equally strong and emotive. But before we have time to raise a handkerchief, Carson is pulling us along to his ‘Riverside Picnic’, a lunchbreak amidst the clear up, where the third stanza begins:

Now, there flutters by
a sulphur-yellow butterfly.
A heron makes his pass
down-river, purposefully.

Life goes on — on this point, the poet is emphatic.

Though Carson regularly reminds us of the horror of what has occurred, he also depicts the reawakening of wildlife and playfully asks us (in ‘Discobolus Technique’) to:

Form a scoop with your paw,
pretend you’re a bear
who scoops out ice-cream
from a bucket; coffee or chocolate?

After the mud, the discovery of a few surviving treasures and the memories that go with them, comes laughter and a reminder to the ‘king sized carnivores’ who float in the sky that he is not for the picking (‘The Fly-Past’). Then finally, ‘Feast Day’: rich and full of exuberance.

The carefully considered piecing together of this pamphlet is masterful, and makes the work personal, moving, and ultimately, inspiring. 

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