Red band aross the top with typewriter and stencil lettering; colourful painting of houses, trees, bunting belowThirty Poems in Thirty Days A Sketchbook, Amanda Dalton

Arc Publications, 2021    £7.00

Power in a month of daily prompts

As someone who has been doing a version of NAPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) every April since 2017, I was fascinated by Amanda Dalton’s varied poems in response to a month of prompts in 2020. There is an undercurrent of loss throughout the pamphlet, reflecting the pandemic but particularly the fact that the poet’s partner died the autumn before lockdown. Day 3 has the poignant lines:

Unspoken words gather these days
like fallen leaves at my closed front door.

Day 4 also has a sadness about it, describing different kinds of dreams. The initial line leads into a dream about ‘ordinary people falling / to the ground, soft as leaves, and I knew they were dying’. The poem ends on a dream where the narrator shares the single bed in her childhood room

and when I turned to see your face you blurred and I knew
that if I blinked you’d disappear.

The social distancing of the pandemic and the loss of a loved one come together in a poem for Day 10. This takes the form of a Hay(na)ku — a form the poet explains. The compact form with lines of one, two and three words suits the subject matter.

Day 19 describes ‘items collected on a walk’ in a prose poem. These turn out to be memories: ‘I found the table clean and new in our old house, thirty years ago, the Christmas dinner on it, you in your purple cracker hat.’ In Day 26 the poet is also beset by memories:

Through the window your old shirt dries
on the line, the one that I still wear to wrap
you round me but right now I wish it didn’t hold
the shape of you.

This pamphlet is striking for the way Dalton’s thoughts have emerged in such finished form: we’re told that most of the poems have not had any editing. The pressure cooker of being required to write a poem a day has delivered an immediate honesty to the poems. The poet also shares each prompt, so others can try them for themselves.

Sue Wallace-Shaddad