Never Wear White, Susan DarlingtonThe jacket is and orangey red. More or less centred is a black and white photograph laid out in pieces3, like a jigsaw puzzle so you can't see whether it's one photo or more than one, or how it fits together. Ther eare people in it, and a woman's face in profile catches the eye top right. The pieces divide into two sets and the break occurs about two thirds down the jacket. In the red area this creates, the collection title appears centred in medium large bold sans serif caps, with the author's name in the same caps but significantly smaller immediately below.

Alien Buddha Press, £8.45   2022


What is noticeable about these poems is how disconcerting they are; or more accurately, how disconcerting I found them. At first, I thought it was because I disagreed so vehemently with Susan Darlington that ‘The art of childlessness / is a matter of semantics.’ I disagreed that it is ‘not about being child-less’ and

It’s not about being less of anything.
It’s about being child-free.

Free to spend time dancing
until the heart-light dawn.

Finding your own rhythms
that are giddy, raw and real,

knowing that no matter what,
alone, you are complete.
     [‘The Art Of Childlessness’]

I am a childless person and I especially disagreed with the final couplet.

Then I disagreed again with the same statement of sentiment at the end of ‘Blue Line’, a poem in which the pregnancy test refused to show a positive result. The line grew longer each month

until it stretched
across the Atlantic
and you followed it home.

The line of vapour
broke apart; faded
into an azure sky

releasing the knowledge
that alone
I was enough.
     [‘Blue Line’]

Then I noticed that — while the poems both end with much the same statement — the pronouns were different. Now I realised that what was disconcerting me was the way Susan Darlington’s, calm, non-judgemental statements were making me face my own truths and limitations. Yes, you … and you … and you … may be complete alone, but no, I am not — for all kinds of reasons.

The same two pronouns appear again at the end of another poem, ‘Sarah’ which is about being ‘friends of convenience’:

And I wish you were here so that I could say sorry
I never really knew you and that after we drifted apart
I barely even noticed your absence until now.

Again, the closing sentiment is about absence, and again, I was disconcerted. Disconcerted by the absence of a ‘you’, from whom I have also drifted apart and to whom I wish I could say, ‘Sorry’, and ‘Every day I notice you are absent’.

Sue Butler