Calderwood Press, 2007 - £4.00 www.calderwoodpress.co.uk
This is a first collection from a founder member of the Dunbar writing group. It’s attractively presented with a heart on the cover made up from a collage of words—worries, reasons, destiny, loved, clouds, questions etc. Between the covers lie 38 mainly short poems, often two to a page. This creates a varied selection box, easy to dip in and out of, and there’s plenty here that’s pleasurable, accessible reading, often capturing a simple idea or moment. In ‘Our Bed’, for example:
and pushing through
the waters of sleep
to reach the air I find
drawing a full moon
around my breast.
In some ways the quantity of small moments, modest events, contributes to the richness of the collection.
I have a reservation, however. Some of the poems fail to maintain necessary intensity right through. Their endings fall a little flat and only recover themselves, to my mind, because another poem quickly follows. ‘Yellow’, for example, concludes with a bunch of flowers, the flowers themselves absorbing the disappointment of a failed relationship:
I hear the door quietly pulled shut.
I look over at the flowers
but already their beauty seems jaded.
The line that really works there is the first of the three I have quoted. The next two, in my view, undermine the effect slightly, both visually and aurally, and word “jaded” borders on cliché. The following poem (on the same page), ‘See through’ quickly recovers the ‘edge’ though: “Here we are/ facing each other, /facing another day”, so the reader moves on, still interested in the relationship.
Generally I thought there was some attractive writing here, and some poems that opened especially well. I did not always think the clarity carried right through, but this is a first collection. The magic of a poem often works best when there is no fancy language and nothing clever going on, hard as it is to have faith in this fact. And yet it is beautifully artful to get a lovely effect like this the three lines that makes up the whole of ‘Crow’:
I love to see crows fly,
how they catch and carry the light on their wings
as they take the horizon home.
You can hear the circle of the sound there—through the ‘i’ in “fly” and then continued in “light”, shortening in “wings”, longer again in “horizon” and finally softening and remembering the ‘O’ in “crow” by coming “home”. I’m simplifying what the vowels are doing, but listen to it for yourself. That’s meaning and music, hand in hand. Mainly we call this poetry.