Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Smith/Doorstop Books 2008  £4.00

The half-mile-high club is a chapbook of 21 poems, separated into three sections. As usual with Smith/Doorstop chapbooks, this is a lovely simple, well-printed design, smaller than average size, which makes it easily slipped into a handbag or pocket for poetry-on-the-go.

The first section is ‘A place called Over’, seven beautifully touching poems related in some way to family. ‘J’accuse’ is a wonderfully funny piece exploring a sixties childhood from the inside of a Triumph Herald:

… it dragged us
through our childhood, shedding its paint
and scabby chassis all round Warwickshire,
making my mother misread maps
and my father misread everything…

‘Prescription’ is about a wig sent out before the poet’s mum started chemo, the experience captured in a tender, poignant yet ordinary way. ‘Strategies’ deals with the coping methods Deakin’s father adopts after his own cancer is diagnosed. These poems are written in an accessible way, well-observed and quietly stated so each poem resonates.

Part two is ‘The half-mile high club’, an almost halfway house of poems about love, almost love and those who make an impact on us through very small gestures. ‘Thank you’ made me laugh out loud: a poetic thank-you to a teenage daughter from a slightly miffed parent. It opens with these lines:

THANK YOU

for the long weekend.
It was a long one wasn’t it?

‘Valentine’ also made me laugh (I shan’t give away the reason). ‘Pausing on Send’ is another beautiful, moving thank you to a person long since moved on to another life, but whose impact is still tenderly felt.

In the final section, ‘Without a Dog’, the scope of the poem reaches wider, to the relationship between moon and earth, and to events and experiences that haven’t happened yet, but might. (Incidentally, ‘Without a Dog’ is the title of Julia Deakin’s first collection published by Yorkshire small press Graft Poetry.)

In The half-mile-high club we are voyeur to tender moments, taken on journeys with the poet that pinpoint exact feelings and precise moments familiar perhaps to our own lives. It is a chapbook to relish.

Annie Clarkson

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Highest rating: 8  Lowest: 5.5

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