Pale brown cover, painting of a table with shadow underneath and jars ontop. Blue title lettering at an angle, white author letteringInscape, Kathleen Bainbridge

Vane Women Press, 2021     £6.00

A breach out into the light

I found Kathleen Bainbridge’s pamphlet intriguing. I researched the meaning of its title and discovered the term ‘inscape’ was coined by Gerard Manley Hopkins to describe something’s individual essence, its distinctiveness. This idea is central to Bainbridge’s set of illuminating poems: the writer / observer’s perception of that essence.

The poems contain the quality of chiaroscuro, her imagery edged with bitter-sweet emotion. The narrator searches for her beloved in sea and wind. Graves, cities, songs and maps all play parts in this quest. I found romance in the magic of golden summer nights, stardust, roses in December, the wonder of light across Earth’s skies, the moon.

The title poem ‘Inscape’ dwells on the inner self. The narrator seems to try to distance herself from difficult memories or hurts, her mind ‘sharp as ice.’ And yet, though ‘the feeling lasted years’, she failed to acknowledge ‘the scorched ground / the forest fires in the distance.’ To me, this suggests that, unless dealt with, grief will come calling, shining light into denial. This sparse poem succeeds for me.

The author dedicates the pamphlet to her late husband. The poem ‘Holdfast’ directly speaks of her loss in the now. Immediate and intimate, we read of his vulnerabilities, her longing, of his palm, his keys, his fingerbone ending with ‘I see you wave to me often, cheering me on.’ I get a sense of his essence from this.

Kathleen Bainbridge, as a Lorca fan, has paid homage to the poet with four poems in this set. In ‘Does Life Want?’ she contemplates the meaning of life through the medium of  a bereaved and veiled character, Federico. The lines spill bright, elegant images, such as ‘the parasols of the tall planes’ and ‘the green fizz of summer’. The poem ends romantically as night falls:

      When silence
stills the bells and the moon comes out
its chaste rose will scent the night
silver those streets

An eloquently complex pamphlet, following the light towards self-discovery.

Maggie Mackay