Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Templar Press, 2006 - £3

Rob Hindle is interested in using poetry as a means of examining history and our relationship to it and this chapbook certainly does that. Just after midnight in 1864 the Dale Dyke Dam burst, flooding 600 million gallons of water and killing 250—300 people. The challenge is to avoid reportage and provide a new way of seeing the aftermath of the flood whilst bringing the list of statistics and documents of history to new life. Hindle achieves this by focusing on individuals involved. In ‘Undertow’, for example, there’s a glimpse of a suicidal man in a cell at Hillsborough:

 

The man is flat against the wall,

arms spread as if in chains

or nailed to a beam. The smell

is worse than the water

and stings in the officer’s eyes.

He drags the man from the flooded room.

 

The suicidal man survives but the officer who saved him dies later.  Other people’s stories include that of widower Tom Kay who moved in with his son-in-law on the day of the flood, brothers Joseph and John Denton aged 14 and 11 who worked the night shift at the forge, a teenaged servant Alathea Hague and a simpleton called George who survived by climbing onto a boiler house roof and whistling to himself. 

Each character comes alive because Rob Hindle doesn’t merely report but allows the accumulation of detail to build the person behind the name. Their voices aren’t forced nor are they reduced to caricatures either. This is where Rob Hindle is most successful and where it worked for me best.

    Several poems are set at Sheffield Workhouse. In one room where the dead are laid out, a candle is set aside for the inspector’s use:

 

There, the second candle burns with a perfect flame.

In its light a man writes slowly, the scratch of his pen

calling each still shape its first and last name.

 

    And finally, the pamphlet is elegantly produced: 40 pages perfect bound with a mottled brown, black and copper-oxide green cover suggesting a silt-covered mildewed wall left after the flood.

Emma Lee