HappenStance, 2008, £4


A few pages into this pamphlet, produced in HappenStance’s familiarly neat house style, the poet would have the reader believe that there’s something holding her back. In the lovely Snow Melt, her bare feet take her “into /what I could not have imagined”, while on the facing page, the owl of that poem’s title seems to be more of a monkey on her back.

The thing is, though, she has already shown that she can imagine pretty much anything, in poems that are unafraid to venture into new territory while pondering their own existence.

Stonechat, for example, which I’ll quote in its wonderful entirety:

The stonechat is not
a stonechat. She is simply herself
on the long twig, by the stones,

no, she is not even self—it all simply
is, on this, the only possible, perfect twig.
It is look and oh! and flit,

all sense and verb,
centred in the understood, measured height
of the present tense, where

giants, gravity-trapped, lumber at the edge
intoning Territory,
quacking Whinchat, a related species.

Now that deserves to be in all sorts of anthologies, for managing to evoke the essence of the bird without resorting to field guide description or awestruck reverence (and all the while considering our relationship to it) and she pulls off the same trick elsewhere, looking at the natural and human worlds from subtly new, thought-provoking angles (‘Wanting To Run On Grass’ made me want to go and run on grass, even in frozen February).

Other highlights? Well, among many, ‘Silence At The Big Top’ is wonderfully tense, thanks to some masterful handling of rhythm and pacing, while ‘Severance’ is perhaps just the best example of a subtlety that always encourages a great multiplicity of meanings.

I could go on, but the best thing you can do is buy this consistently excellent collection yourself, and enjoy a writer who herself seems to enjoy all the possibilities language offers.

Matt Merritt

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