Templar Poetry, 2006 - £3
Looks aren’t everything, but this is one of the best looking pamphlets I’ve ever seen. Templar Poetry’s chapbooks really feel like small books: titled spines; photo-print hard card covers with fly-leaves and a slightly square, fit-in-the-hand shape. Call me shallow, but this is the A list when it comes to style. And (printed in India) they only cost £3.
Of course it’s what’s inside that really counts and Judy Brown’s prize-winning, open-ended poems live up to the promise. They are richly textured and finely observed, often taking flight into the fantastic. In ‘Loudness’, for example, “An angel/ rides the stirrup and anvil, spurring on the drum,/ works like wet weather in wild sheets/ flapping and cracking the body’s flat muscles.” Brown dissects the minutiae of moments and emotions, putting them under a microscope of vigorous imagery—“the bad news and its pulled-back fist”.
It’s not surprising that someone who pays such close attention to detail knows about fine art. ‘The Techniques of Happiness and Ground’ both take us on an x-ray journey into the construction of paintings. The poet’s close observation is matched by an ear for the music of consonants and vowels, and a dry humour. This is true, for example, in ‘The Dach’s Blog’ (her dog’s-view journey through a dachshund’s world) and ‘Life in the Green Belt’: “Your unhappiness and my unhappiness/ lay between us like two of my relatives.”
The poem I keep returning to, though, is ‘Best Drink of the Day’, which opens the collection:
…there’s always a shiver
in this waiting moment, before the day
snaps off from the night, locks,
engages its rack and pinion, and starts
to grind and climb.
Just reading it makes me reach for tea-pot and toast. These highly sculpted, painstaking poems deserve to be savoured. Try not to get crumbs on them.