The Garlic Press, 2007 - £5.00
Margaret Easton’s poems have been appearing regularly in Smiths Knoll, and at last we have a collection of twenty-eight poems and a chance to see if she can sustain the same concentrated individuality. She does—and it’s a triumph. As a poet she makes a virtue of self-effacement, inhabiting the private worlds of others, and letting their stories show; she is the medium through which the voices of these poems reach us. She listens to fractured people, with all their ragged memories and fears and illogicalities, and makes them vividly dramatic. So these are complex poems: you, as reader, have to adjust to a new persona in each poem—and it’s very rewarding.
Easton overturns many rules that poetry workshops like to emphasise: she changes speaker mid-poem (or does she?); she lets the language be awkward (“He always did do invoices in the kiosk”); she makes the reader sort out who the pronouns refer to; she lets repetitions in. But she always ‘shows’, keeping herself absent. Many of the speakers in the poems are troubled, both in themselves and by others, but their lives have a unique inner order. For example, in ‘Family Firm’:
His wife called it nothing, she called it
under pressure, then nothing again. Then
not like him, just like his father...
We hear the story moving behind the politeness, the euphemisms, the inconsequential phrasing, the self-sacrifice. Only when you start to take this poem apart, to see how she does it, do you appreciate the line endings, the rhythm, the careful construction of the narrative.
Her prose poems will convince anyone who doubts this form: they have drive, individual voice, layers of meaning. ‘Your go’, weaves the vocabularies of money, both in the real world and in Monopoly, into family relationships, ending with “None of this would be happening if it wasn’t for grandpa’s money.”
I wouldn’t want to lose a single poem from this collection.