Bodies, and other haunted houses, SL GrangeTHe jacket looks monochrome but may  just be lacking colour. It shows a knee, with the suggestion of a hand pulling back the knee's covering. Then there is a black ink tattoo occupying about four inches at least of the cover and all of the knee. The tattoo is over the title on a tape measure in italic print. Behind this is a piratical sword. The author's name is top right corner in small white italics, just above the knee.

Seren, 2022    £5.00

In and out of parenthesis

In ‘Where are we going, Mary Frith?’, a poem about a cross-dressing performer and criminal living in London between 1588 and 1659, the last of the five stanzas is completely enclosed in brackets:

(We slip our feet through woollen breeches,
tie our points up neat as Sunday prayer
pit pat
Oh and we will chop our hair
clean off at the chin,
our breasts bound
in white sheets

I wasn’t sure why, or exactly how this parenthesis affected the reading, but decided just to go with it. I applied the same acceptance to ‘Pockets’ where only the first four lines are unbracketed. The ensuing twenty-four lines are enclosed by round brackets. The poem ends

( [ … ]
their faces crumpled with the sudden knowledge
of how this one sentence
shouted down from the top
a long time back
could have saved them the bother

left their hands free
to put into their own pockets,
swagger to the bar alone
and order a goddamn whiskey).

Text in other poems is also in brackets, which set me thinking about Virginia Woolf’s novel To The Lighthouse, where Woolf uses brackets to convey personal information about the family — including three deaths — without unduly interrupting the narrative, to fast-forward time and to let surviving characters age. But Woolf’s brackets are square.

When I reached ‘After Sappho’ and saw square brackets I thought perhaps this was familiar territory. But these brackets are empty.

Take me in [ ] arms Peggy Shaw
                                [            ]Shaw
[ ] will suck your thumb wh[ ]
[      ]pro[      ]ever die.

[      ] freckled [ ]
Musc[              ]
[          ] lift and hold us to the hot bright light

Now I was stumped, though given the Sappho title, I infer something (or many somethings) are missing.

Maybe the message is that we all live (love, create, speak, listen, eat, express faith) in and outside various kinds of parentheses. Acknowledging, accepting and celebrating this <even when we don’t understand why> is poetry lifted (compassionately) off the page and shared.

Sue Butler