HappenStance Press, 2006 - £3.00
THE UNCERTAIN DAYS about which Gill McEvoy writes span her childhood, the disabling illness and death of her young husband, and her life since being diagnosed with cancer. The poems themselves are anything but uncertain however, and this accomplished writer uses language confidently and to unnerving effect. In the opening poem, ‘The Plucking Shed’, a description of plucking geese becomes a metaphor for the hidden and more vulnerable versions of ourselves:
The plucking goes on, and what you are
beneath your plumage shows itself:
enormous prickly pears,
feather-pores like craters in your skin.
There’s something both precise and at the same time immensely humane about the way McEvoy turns this poem around and causes the reader to consider their own vulnerability. Her ability to write about illness and death while avoiding all trace of melodrama or sentimentality owes a lot to her consistently skilled use of imagery. In many of these poems simple everyday objects are used to carry complex emotions, as in ‘The Wayward Button’, in which she describes making a bonfire of her husband’s clothes after his death and later finding a button that had stubbornly refused to burn:
Next morning when I raked the ashes flat
I picked it up. Now it goes
everywhere with me.
A few of the poems contain a line that works too hard, offering the reader an explanation that’s unnecessary, but to my mind this hardly matters. Uncertain Days is a well-balanced first collection containing many poems that more established poets would be proud of. Gill McEvoy is a poet well worth watching out for. I’m already waiting for her first book.