Brightwork, Suzannah V Evans
Guillemot Press, 2021 £6.00
I love everything about Brightwork. I see the name on a boat, painted boldly (‘these poems were written during a poetry residency at Underfall Yard’), then find ‘brightwork’ defined as ‘polished metalwork on ships or other vehicles’. It’s an inspired title for this sparkling collection of poems.
The title word stands out in ‘The Woman Who Wanted to be a Boat’, a sensory prose poem:
She thought again of brightwork, of how her hull would shine in the water, how cormorants would fleet by her in the surf, how she would smell like silt, like salt. She closed her eyes, and rocked.
‘Fleet’ also draws the eye, makes me linger. These poems leave room for the reader. The repetition and similes in the first lines of ‘Almost-Heartwood’, and its stream of consciousness feel, all draw me back into its sensory imagery of sound:
The rosy almost-heartwood of larch,
which sounds like lark, which sounds like singing,
which sounds like the wood could open its rosy throat
and pour forth the song of boats sighing in the harbour
My favourite image comes in this lovely, shortest of poems, photographed so you can see the layout clearly. Maybe there’s silence, but I imagine a whooshing as the boats are lifted:
I’m rarely drawn to shaped poems, but ‘Buoy’ is an exception, shaping itself as it speaks. Near the middle there’s the sensory invitation to ‘Place your hand on my smooth / side and I am a rounded belly, full of sea dreams, water / susurrations’. I love the imaginings with which this poem ends:
I am as orange as the colour that appears before
your eyes when you blink before the sun;
I am an orange tethered thought
sounding out the water;
I am a scorched moon
at the harbourside.