Point Bolivar Light, Mark Wynnethe jacket is a simple design, following the tall-lighthouse house style. There is a white band along the bottom about two inches high. Inside this the aiuthor's name is right justified in small blue lower case letters. The rest of the jacket is blue (same shade as the author's name), though a lighter beam falls from left to right, like the widening beam of a lighthouse. The title of the pamphlet is also right-justified in black, just above the white band.

tall-lighthouse, 2022    £7.00

The cumulative power of vignettes

How pleasingly apt it is that a pamphlet about the Galveston flood of 1900, in which the titular lighthouse played a vital role, should be published by Tall-Lighthouse, following publication of some of its poems in (unrelated) Lighthouse Journal. It’s good value too, comprising 31 poems — though none extends to a second page. In that regard, they differ from historical pieces incorporating so much detail they may as well be ‘Wiki-poems’.

The hurricane that caused the Galveston flood was the worst natural disaster in the USA’s recorded history, with thousands of deaths, and Wynne dares to address such subject-matter in a sequence of short poems. Commendably, he provides some notes and lists seven sources of material.

The poems can’t, of course, tell the whole story; nevertheless, they vividly convey the horror, in spite of their frequent terseness. In ‘Panorama of the Tremont Hotel’, the hurricane (its name, I think, indicated by the poet’s choice of a blank space inside square brackets)

[             ] sweeps in

                        — clear eyed
                       and unannounced —

chairs hit the roof
               chandeliers fall

The concrete layout here seems designed to reflect the damage wreaked by the hurricane. Other poems take more traditional forms, but most are similar, and generally eschew upper-case and punctuation. The effect is compelling, like a snappily-edited film that veers from scene to scene, with depictions of damage driving the emotional impact. That human cost is outlined with a clear-eyed intensity. For example, in ‘The Law of Storms’:

I lie stricken with night
fear pours from room to room

and gathers in a lake around the bed —
my wife is a pale island

Most titles are enticingly specific, eg ‘Klondike, no. 9’ and At Maceo’s Grotto’. Some signal the horror, as in ‘Thrilling Experience of a Dallas Girl’, and ‘Catastrophe at Redfish Bar’ in which:

[...] within an hour of the town
            being scalped by God
the bar turned into Hell’s Hundred Acres

          every woman electrified

In this poem, the struggles toward survival are rendered no less uncompromisingly: ‘even those who had / lost their all / had the glee of insanity’.

If ever a pamphlet were more than the sum of relatively small parts, this is it.

Matthew Paul