HappenStance, 2008 £4.00 - www.happenstancepress.com
Reading Janet Loverseed’s poems, I came to feel that low-level anxiety (tempered by rue) is an entirely appropriate response to life. The world is not a safe place, and we are not always wonderful to each other. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just the truth, and therefore a source of strength and sometimes even humour.
The twenty-six poems in this pamphlet, the author’s first collection, span her whole life, and the opening poem, ‘Roar’, sets the uneasy tone for all that follows:
Dad took us to a guest house on a beach.
He said, Listen Janey, listen to the sea.
It breathes. And you can hear it all the time.
Even as a child she knows this sound is not her friend, and by the final stanza:
Alone now I lie awake and listen
to the roaring of the wind in the trees.
I’m far inland, and fearful.
Justifiably so. Loverseed has had the usual allotment of tough life lessons, including losing people she loves. But it’s not the large calamities she’s afraid of: she fears falling short in small, everyday ways.
In the title poem, she regrets having once told someone—her husband, perhaps?— to “bugger off” when he lectured her for buying too-ripe bananas and not using enough garlic:
We didn’t speak for days. But now
I eat bananas green as springtime grass
and breathe my garlic breath on all who pass.
I may be wrong about this, but this strikes me as a marvelously subversive poem about widowhood, and Loverseed’s subversiveness provides some of her best moments. In the sonnet ‘Haunting,’ she tells her daughter:
When I’m dead, please do try on all my clothes
and ransack all my cupboards. …
Try thinking: The fraud, she’d want these papers read.
This brooch? I’m going to see what cash it brings
and anyway, she’ll never know—she’s dead.
Three cheers for that. Loverseed writes gorgeously about taking refuge from the roar of the world in the silence of snow. But I’m glad she’s also capable of beginning a memory poem with the line, “My sister Liz, the boring little fart …”
Janet Loverseed on YouTube reading ‘The Under-Ripe Banana’: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=IwG6IZ1kvYs&feature=related
The Young Reader adds:
This is a good quality chapbook printed on heavy paper with a strange but interesting picture of a tiger standing on a banana on the cover.
These poems seem quite homely and ordinary, but there’s always something emotional going on just under the surface. Often that doesn’t become clear until the last line. They’re straight and unpretentious, and I like them.