Slightly speckled brown plain cover with black letteringSome things I ought to throw away, Eileen Farrelly

Dreich Chapbooks, 2021    £5.00

Each poem a story

I enjoyed the clarity in this collection. Each poem seemed to me to tell its own, brief story. I picked the pamphlet up to start reading, and then found it moreish — each page pulling me into wanting to see what narrative and insight the next satisfyingly delivered.

These aren’t simplistic stories, some are gritty and they all feel real, tackling deep, subtle subjects. But there’s something so easeful about the language and construction of each poem that receiving its import is refreshingly simple.

‘Lebkuchen’ starts:

One Christmas Eve, a day or two after
someone rammed a twenty-five-ton lorry
through the Berlin festive markets,
my German neighbour knocked at the door
with a gift of lebkuchen.

Facing this is a short poem called ‘Sanatorium’. In two eight-line stanzas, it manages to capture not only the essence of a TB (I think) sanatorium — ‘smiles too bright / like Snow White’ – but also the character of the poet’s mother, and perhaps, further, her generation’s.

The title poem is a lovely list poem that I suspect many of us might respond to: those things we’ve hung on to, perhaps not sure why. I smiled especially at two consecutive items:

A ten-year old’s poem
handwritten in Quink.
Photos of dead cats
(not dead at the time of course)

Ah, Quink! The poem’s a lovely trip in nostalgia as well as something deeper: ‘reminders of a half-finished life.’

I loved the opening line of ‘Patience’: ‘My grandfather taught me patience’. And these, from ‘The Sky at Night’ – where the child-poet has ‘asked for a telescope’ for Christmas, ‘to set up at night on our patch of lawn / where crisp white sheets / and school shirts flapped by day’. She looks up at that sky:

half believing that no one else had seen
the moon and stars like this before
not, at least, in our narrow street

By the time I got to the end of the pamphlet I felt I had spent a little time with this poet, and that she had generously shared her insights and observations — which I, on the receiving end as reader, appreciated.

Charlotte Gann