Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Dreadful Night Press 2005 -  £5.00

 

it’s risky including illustrations with poems. The modernists abandoned ‘decorations’ in poetry collections (since when they’ve largely been relegated to children’s verse); Stevie Smith didn’t, though she—in the end—justified the risk. Here I’m not so sure. I like the little line drawings in this volume and admittedly many of the haiku-oriented poems focus on neat visual details: 

          second-hand bookshop

          hidden from view, a cat stirs

          in a box marked crime 

But the untitled poem quoted above actually draws on three visual snapshots, only one of which is echoed in the graphic (and that isn’t even the cat). On balance, I’d prefer the words to do their work without the distraction of a line drawing.

    In the same way I was bothered by the rather ornate font, the way its size varies, and the way the poems start at different heights on the page. These things acted as barriers for me. So did the back-cover blurb where Donny O’Rourke over-hypes the contents as “breath-holdingly alert to what’s observable in nature, relationships and the sweet sexy tumult of being young”. Oh dear.

    But it’s worth contending with these barriers to find, on the inside pages, a young poet with an edge: 

          My teenage angst I look back on,

          fondly. I have suffered

          sufficient grief, so far,

          to remember always

          to carry joy around

          with me, like house keys. 

I like those house-keys. And although some of the longer poems lose me in their sprawl, little fragments of crisp visualisation, combined with a sense of aural playfulness, keep calling me back:         

          smoke, sneaking upwards,

          black bits of dirty glitter,

          even litter

                             air  

Morrish is obviously interested in Japanese verse, and in particular haiku—perhaps the form which proves that the hardest thing of all is to be successfully simple. But her last poem (though I wish it had kept to the left-hand justification of the rest of the poems) proves she can accomplish this: 

the moon

in competition with the streetlights

is quietly confident

         

    Helena Nelson

 

The Common Reader says of Three Little Ninjas:

This was one of my favourite pamphlets. ‘In the Event of my Death’ is a wonderfully funny poem:


Please don’t make an enormous fuss,
Just those I loved would be enough.


The funeral arrangements become more extravagant:


And write, in blood-red-velvet blooms, the message ‘Sadly Missed’
Then toast me with champagne and then all get high or pissed.