Swirly pink background effect, with a central image of a tribal mask, mirrored, feathered. White title lettering aboveMay We All Be Artefacts, Chloe Hanks

V. Press, 2021      £6.50

Effect of repetition

Chloe Hanks creates strong rhythms in her pamphlet through the repetition of words and sounds as well as her use of form and rhyme. She uses these means to capture atmosphere, and I found it particularly interesting how these enhanced her ekphrastic poems.

In the first poem ‘Testaments of an Instagram Poet’, she starts each stanza with ‘I want to write’ and uses alliteration in the first stanza with ‘delicate poetry’ which ‘fleets across the page’

in a perfect pirouette,
feather-light skirts chasing
precisely pointed limbs.

The poet uses the lyrical form of the villanelle in ‘Little Jean’, a poem about Claude Monet’s beautiful painting of his wife and son. These are the alternating lines which close the poem in the final quatrain:

Beneath the dainty sky as summer wakes,
the boy looks to the clouds for abstract shapes.

The villanelle is also used in ‘The Witch Inside the Mirror’. One of the repeating lines is ‘I trapped a witch inside an antique mirror’ which builds up a slightly claustrophobic effect. The form seems very apt as the ‘I’ in the poem is caught by the witch in an endless cycle as ‘she spills curse after curse, no end in sight’.

The poem ‘Frida’ responds to a striking self-portrait by Frida Kahlo. Here the poet also uses repetition in an interesting way. The first two lines of each octet are repeated at its end. The first lines are also repeated as the fourth lines. This means we have ‘eyes’ three times at line end which replicates the directness of the gaze in the self-portrait. The word ‘again’ repeated at line end three times, for me, creates an effect or impression of survival despite pain.

One last example (there are others). In the prose poem ‘To Love a Poet’, the word ‘entwined’ occurs eight times. The poem begins and ends with ‘you’ ‘entwined with me’. Stitching also features strongly as an image in the poem. The effect, in what is already a dense square of text, is to bind words and meaning closer together. Another potent use of timely repetition.

Sue Wallace-Shaddad