The Heart of Green, Robin MacKenzieThe jacket is pale green. The title, the author, and the name of the press are all centred in black lower case, the title fairly big, then the other two decreasing in size. Between title and author there is a large monochrome ink drawing or print of some foxes in a clearing in a wood.

Matecznik Press, 2019    £4.00

Reading for pleasure

This modest pamphlet is a pleasure to read. The voice is clear, the method subtly measured. The opening piece (‘Harvesting the Fog’) could be a metaphor for the act of making poems; its trope is as good as any I know, though deceptively simple. In fact, it seems to say nothing ‘poetic’ at all, until you think again, and sense the reverberations. It’s also a poem from which I can’t quote selectively: you need the whole thing, all ten lines, because every syllable is so perfectly meshed into the whole.

So I’ll focus instead on the pleasure of two pieces near the end, ‘The Wake-up Call’ and ‘Indian Summer’, both of which I take to be about the author’s aging mother, though neither says so explicitly. The first of these, as the title suggests, deals with an early morning phone call:

The phone’s peremptory ringing wakens me.
Did I get you up? Well yes — it’s ten past seven.
Just to report today’s catastrophe.
A power cut; she’s perishing; some hooligans
— or so she’s heard — brought down a telegraph pole.

And so on. I read the whole poem a couple of times, before even noticing it was a rhyming sonnet. The last line reads ‘I wonder what her message really was.’ How simple. How natural. I hadn’t even noticed the iambic pentameter!

And then the next poem, ‘Indian Summer’, places the mother in a garden, ‘trowel in hand / like a saint’s attribute’. I drank in the neatness of that simile, and its visual vividness with delight. So much so that I didn’t notice the whole thing was happening in rhyming (or slant-rhyming) couplets, which then shift their rhyming pattern:

                                             Her inward gaze
shifts back to an old garden of sun-flecked alleys
and greenhouses where the grape-clusters pressed
against the slanting glass — where she would go
to dream of d’Artagnan and Ivanhoe
and Lochinvar arriving from the west.

It was the ‘grape-clusters pressed’ chiming with the ‘west’ that swung me into the realisation I was reading a formal poem. What a pleasure it is to find such writing, and how lovely it is to find yourself reading poetry for pleasure!

Helena Nelson