Dreadful Night Press, 2005 - £5.00
THIS PAMPHLET DOES CONTAIN POETRY, but it’s a thin, sporadic seam. I had read the opening and title poem, ‘Seats for Landing’ with high expectations for what was to follow:
When the pilot announces
‘Cabin crew seats for landing’,
I lay my head on the plastic pane
to watch the stupidly beautiful city lights
and my stomach
conducts the thrill of descent,
disloyal to my heart;
now in reverse thrust
to stay suspended
until it can land
So, we were already cruising at altitude. Good-O. A rapid descent to earth followed, the remaining poems for the most part autobiographical, confessional and somewhat prosaic, plundering Ciara MacLaverty’s childhood, or set roughly in the present. For example, in ‘Mad Cow’ the logic of the line breaks defeated me while the ‘mad cow’ reference itself (connected with a school girl who turned down polo mints “because they contained bovine glycerine”) was laboured.
MacLaverty escapes the runway only intermittently after that first poem, though she has some excellent lines. In ‘Island Drowning’, for example, she describes
…the sea slate calm,
a July sky slung low with aluminium rain clouds
Toenail clippings are memorably described as “off-white, keratin apostrophes”. At Loch Lomond, the poet and a friend “watch the whale-blue hills downwind,/ face the peat-soft slap of the loch.” And in a moving poem, ‘86’, an old woman in a home strokes two toy kittens in a basket, and believes them to be alive:
‘My wee boys are just sleeping the day,’ she said,
I wanted Ciara MacLaverty to have had a good hard look at that first poem, to have understood how it worked so well, and applied that understanding to the rest of her work. She has the talent.
The Common Reader says of Seats for Landing: I noted from inside the back cover that this is the writer’s first poetry collection. Wow! She’s off to a very good start. I loved every single poem. There’s humour, sadness, childhood memories and despite the references to her illness, there’s also a sense of hope and the feeling that MacLaverty just gets on with it. It’s difficult to single out favourites in this one. ‘Fancy Pants’, ‘Out of Sight’, ‘Volunteered’ and ‘Peeled’ are all worthy contenders.
‘Nice Wheelchair’ has a special appeal because the ending is nothing short of triumphant:
In January’s milky sun, I’m walking alone.
I am using shoes—oh the thrill of chunky black shoes.
Look at me everyone!
I am Neil Armstrong, I am Fred Astaire,
I’m walking on ground, not air.
For similar reasons I loved ‘Nailed’ for the gently satisfying last line:
And yet, there are days when I do not mind.
Read it. There’s more than a small chance you’ll feel uplifted ●