Poetry Scotland, Windfall Chapbooks, 2007 - £3.00 www.poetryscotland.co.uk
The intriguing title draws you in and includes the image of
the chittering of tiny polished claws,
tip-tap in time across the table-top,
disturb the quietness of that dawny hour.
I knew him then, this cheeky little bird,
not so much private-eye
as some still-undiscovered Fred Astaire...
Of course, poet and bird are left waiting, but it sets the tone. The awareness of assonance and use of alliterative phrasing point to someone who knows how sounds can echo and reinforce sense. In that opening phrase you can almost hear the bird’s claws tapping on the table top, the short vowels keeping the poem’s rhythm in time with the bird’s.
These are quiet observations aware of time’s passage and content to unwind and watch, leaving the action to others. There’s a strong awareness of sounds elsewhere too. For example, ‘Old Tweed’ yields “looms complain/ clack their censorious tongues”, in a poem that manages to avoid nostalgia, telling it like it was rather than painting some golden age where everything was better.
And there’s the delight of defrosting raspberries in ‘Fresh Raspberries’:
as moist warm kitchen air
thaws out the secret sweetness hibernating there.
This brings us back to that attention to detail, the soft, feminine endings firmly placing the poem in the realm of the domestic.
If there’s a weakness within Waiting for Ginger Rogers at Loch Oich, it lies in its sameness of subject and tone from one poem to another. Whilst anything radically different would be out of place, just occasionally, a change would help. The litany of place names and slips into dialect merely reinforce the similarity of the poems. It feels like a collection of poems published in magazines rather than a collection where neighbouring poems have been considered, re-arranged, re-read and re-ordered. That’s not to say that the quiet accomplishment of these poems isn’t welcome, but a little more variety of style and tone would lift it into another class.