Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Smith/Doorstop, 2005 -  £3.00

 

A neat Smith/Doorstop pamphlet, unassuming in its small size and plain cover. Inside, a world verging on the surreal. If you like poetry firmly rooted in the real world, the everyday, this is not the book for you. You will be seduced into thinking it is, because everyday situations seem to be what is being described, but you will soon find that prisms and mirrors, flashbacks and flash-forwards, parallel universes etc. come into play. You are never where you think you are, which for me is one of the purposes of poetry. Part of the first poem in the collection, ‘The Lighthouse’ may serve to illustrate what I mean: 

The lighthouse flickers at the end of the pier.

We watch it in our red pyjamas.

Actually neither of us are wearing red pyjamas

you’re wearing my blue shirt.

 

The lighthouse flickers at the end of the pier.

It’s the only thing we can be sure of.

Everything’s uncertain

since you set alight my record collection. 

The poem from which the pamphlet’s title is taken, ‘Emergency Rations are Tasting Better and Better’, is a fine example of this technique, with scenes from a polar expedition interleaved with the musings of a bored suburbanite: 

It’s eleven in the morning, sun coming through,

next door’s lawnmower doing a lawnmower impression.

 

The dried apricots were a treat, with our backs

to the wind, smoking our pipes while the huskies slept.

 

Maybe the telephone will ring, or I’ll write a poem

in which every line will sound like the last line.

 

This is paradise were we not intent on starving.

 

I turn on the radio, turn it off again,

find the pencil sharpener and sharpen both pencils.  

Other poems play tricks in similar, or different, fashion. The ground of critical certainty shifts under your feet as the poems, like the photographs in the final piece, ‘Baldwin Road’ “pull themselves together.” 

This is a fine little collection. I loved it.

Lyn Moir