Flarestack Poetry, 2006 - £3.00
Meredith Andrea paints with words. Her poetry is often packed full of imagery, carefully drawn and filled in with precise and glowing detail. ‘Poem with grasshopper inscription’ is particularly evocative, beautifully described and full of texture and richness:
husk of a grasshopper, gold
of Egyptian corn, wings of bleached raffia
laid along the body in its plaited binding
But she also tells a story. ‘Sun in an empty room’, for example, is simply written, but we’re hooked from start to finish, from “waterglass/ scintillas on the ceiling” and “the children’s heights recorded/ in bright pen on plaster” to the plain last line, “To leave/ I had to corner, trap and scrub my clinging shadow out”.
Occasionally she gets a bit overblown, or slides into cliché; there is a moon “sucked bone-dry with longing”, thistledown describing arabesques in air, and the ubiquitous heron. And occasionally she seems to fall foul of a tendency to try to end with something weighty or telling. This can misfire. ‘Poem with grasshopper inscription’ ends with the phrase “to house the soul’s return for rest”. It sounds lovely. Still, I can’t help but feel suspicious of poetic references to the soul. In ‘Darkroom’ she abandons the outdated process of developing photographs from negatives; the end of the poem finds her down by the river with her printer-generated pictures, bending to the water to “gently leaf them in”. Again, this sounds lovely, but I’m just not sure what it means.
Andrea is at her best when writing about more concrete things. ‘1962’, her poem about what children know, is very nicely observed, capturing the known along with the half-known, that ladies “keep their knees together” and that “marmalade is hard work but worth it”. This pamphlet, Grasshopper Inscriptions, is not hard work, but is very definitely worth it.