Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Landfill Press, 2006 - £3.00/$5.00

There is something extraordinarily true about Graeme Richardson’s Hang Time, a pocketsize pamphlet that moves without sentimentality but with acute visual and emotional awareness through the darkness of addiction and into the stark beauty of recovery, marked (as are most recoveries) by the power of an unrelenting love. In the midst of this journey, we find ourselves on the blinding white sands of Paros, birthplace of Archilochus, who wrote with the vigor and flexibility that Richardson seeks and often finds in his forthright poems. Although Richardson, like most of us, was born into a time scarred by the trappings of indulgent excess and unwieldy consumption, he nonetheless neatly avoids both the trappings and traps of excess, preferring images as crisp and as fragmentary as those of Archilochus, images that serve as incomplete reminders not of the past but of the future.

 

Richardson knows the vacuity of exile and the fullness of love. He understands the fact that the kind of language which reveals these states most completely and usefully can be neither accusatory nor rhapsodic. If the “hard waiting” of addiction can be described as “Time like a brilliant sun,” then the terror—and sudden joy—of the marriage day can be recalled with images of “bricks stacked smart and the mud in plaits.”

 

In “Prodigal,” the love that might permit return appears first as graffiti, “scratched-in hearts” on a park bench; and hope surfaces as a spring that is as much about remnants as it is about beginnings:

 

In the park I picked up

wet shreds of pink on my shoes

dabs on my jacket

spring like a battle leaving marks

 

Spring may do battle, but love heals because it can illuminate the beauty of such mundane details of our lives. In the space between rain-soaked jackets, muddy shoes, and bricks, we find room to breathe, and know that return depends upon the known (left behind), while recovery requires openness to the unknown. As Richardson notes in ‘Meditations on the Passion’,

 

If wounds are too wide to be healed

make them channels    we might flow

 

We might bleed back together

 

 

Tia Ballantine

 

 

 

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