Red cover with a black line drawing of a heart shape and black letteringCount the Ways, Finola Scott

Hybriddreich, 2021     £5.00

Small and perfectly formed

The poems in this pamphlet are exquisitely spare. Let’s go straight in and look at ‘Eggshells and Fontanelles’. After reading the title I felt completely engaged. It gave me the curve of the eggshell and the fontanelle, the need to protect what is so precious, the fragility and a foreboding of what happens to eggshells, a sense of the diversity of life. The poem begins:

Free range stuck with fluff feathers.
Farm eggs in brown paper bag,
no protection at all.

There’s no need for a comma in the first line or a definite article in the second and that comma at the end of ‘bag’ onto the next line slows it down long enough for us to understand the significance of what we are being shown. This ranks for me as one of the strongest images I have ever seen in a poem. I can feel the paper, the bulges within it, hear it rustle, wince at the care needed to carry it and think — how precious, how beautiful, how life affirming. The poem opens up a world in which we then see the poet’s ‘wee ones’ eat the eggs. They ‘scoop past / membranes to silky whites’.

The poems are about love that is sexual, or between friends, or familial, or for our place in the universe. The love in the egg poem is that for birth and children; in ‘Portencross, Seamill’ it is love of an aging brother and a mother who has already died. The meeting with the brother is on a beach:

                  I tip
silver grains from shoes
                 hug my brother feeling
his age beneath my hands.

The 12-line poem ends:

I nearly check in with Mum
then remember.

Beneath the hands the brother can be ‘felt’ and at the same time there is the sad ‘feeling’ of his age and the death of the mother. It’s like a world beneath a world — the beach and what is actually happening giving way to a whole lifetime of experienced family love. Every poem has this magic as different ‘ways’ are added to the ’count’.

Anne Bailey