Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Shoestring, 2008  £5.00 - www.shoestring-press.com

Deryn Rees-Jones writes with the elegance and assurance I would expect from someone who has previously published three full collections, including a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation. Many poems deal with unexpected visitations, new beginnings, mysterious gifts from unlikely sources—a Chinese lacquer egg, fossils, slugs, a child’s picture, a meteor. Things fall into these poems and become finds. The strongest of them are charged with mystery and although readers are reminded in the poem ‘L’ that “Some mysteries are never solved”, they are nevertheless given glimpses into what can’t yet be entirely understood.

‘Slugs’ is a good example of Deryn Rees-Jones’s style. Slugs enter the narrator’s house. The narrator reflects on the inner life of a slug and the impossibility of getting anywhere near, and then:

In the gastropod inchings of their midnight séances,
the slow rehearsals of molluscular dance,
they’re themselves absolutely, beyond imitation.

The narrator discovers uniqueness in the slugs, and then beauty. The poem surveys the world from an unusual angle and transforms typical expectations. The same happens in ‘Meteor’, a poem about the “hinged moment” between beginnings and endings, which closes with a dramatic juxtaposition:

I remember how it disturbed the heavens,
burned against the air to leave no trace.

Occasionally, poems felt contrived, constructed by sheer force of rhetoric. Perhaps they were trying too hard to make their connections? ‘Couvade’ linking pregnancy with a South American tribal ritual didn’t convince me. ‘Hallucigenia’ was complex, but was a hard slog for little reward—as opposed to ‘Ellipsis’ where the complexity drew me in to listen for the strangeness lying behind the words on the page.

Generally, this is an enjoyable collection, which hangs together well. Images from the first poem are subtly echoed in the last, but the meaning has shifted—part of what makes this pamphlet both mysterious and illuminating.

Rob A Mackenzie