Five Leaves, 2007 - £3.50 www.fiveleaves.co.uk
I’ve heard Anna Woodford’s name mentioned here and there over the last while so I opened her chapbook with interest, read one poem, and was gripped. Trailer is about different generations of the poet’s family—photographs of one set of great-grandparents are included—with a particular focus on her grandfather, Ludwick Magenheim, who left behind the concentration camps and even his own name when he married her grandmother. And if this all sounds like previously explored territory for poetry, think again. Anna Woodford makes it lively and new, and in the way of the best of poems, she starts with the specific and takes off. How universal is this about a birthday cake from Memento Mori:
how much dark one candle
before the nurse
clicks on the light.
There’s no denying how strongly Woodford feels about her subject matter but don’t expect anything emotional or loose in her writing. In ‘Grandfather Once Removed’, she twists the opening line, “My grandfather, or the man who replaced/ my grandfather”, and then stands it on its head. Her words and lines have a detached sharpness and edge, and she chooses and mixes her images with startling effect. Elsewhere, in ‘Going Underground’, her grandfather’s life is unwrapped “like a boiled sweet” from her grandmother’s hand-bag, but after this reassuring comparison, the poem ends with (I assume) her father:
…the baby with Slovak eyes,
who didn’t know his limbs had been broken,
who didn’t know how far he’d come
—from the condemned line of men and women—
via the Central Line.
There are some wonderful poems in Trailer: before long everyone will be mentioning Anna Woodford’s name. And with quality like this, it almost seems irrelevant, but the chapbook looks good too—a real bargain at £3.50.