Arrowhead, 2007 - £4.50 www.arrowheadpress.co.uk
The twenty-five poems in Relinquish, as the title might suggest, are themed around attachments and letting go—out of need, desire, or simply because some things can’t be held onto for long. Characters, shadow bodies, and objects meet, pass through each other’s lives, and often leave behind a lingering presence in their absence.
Meryl Pugh uses free verse, but with obvious attention to form, and several poems utilise slant rhyme without metre. The content varies from the experience of listening to music, a stay in a disused nuclear bunker, a liaison with an alien, to a swimming metaphor reflecting on a relationship that has ended.
The writing is strong. The poems are well crafted and the images often vivid and memorable. In ‘To the Body’, the narrator suggests to her body that they be no more to each other:
than dirt and water in a river, where one
takes on the shape of the other and is gone.
That’s a fine, accurate and multi-layered metaphor, and is typical of this writer’s emotional precision.
A few of the poems didn’t quite work. The four ‘alien’ poems didn’t succeed in being either humorous or disconcerting, and ‘Speak After the Tone’ felt more like an exercise than a poem. But where I sensed urgency behind the poems, I enjoyed this pamphlet. My favourites were the title poem, ‘Relinquish’, for its powerful evocation of loss, ‘Sacre Coeur’ for its reflections on a brief encounter with the sacred, and ‘To our Bodies Turn We Then’ (a phrase borrowed from Donne) for the moving paradox at its heart:
We are shown a sphere of granite, polished
and I think, perfect. Then the wisp of quartz
smoking the black.
It cannot help but crack open,
split down that rough, bright seam which is its core.
Rob A Mackenzie