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Somehow, Helen CalcuttThe jacket is white. A central line drawing occupies most of the space. It is a naked woman with her spine traced in red, and a blurred blackish smear across her head and across towards her knee. So you can't see her face. The blur could be grief? The author name and title are at the top in caps, the author's name first in bright pink, then the title in turquoise. The publisher's log is centred at the foot of the jacket

Verve poetry press, 2020        £7.50

Poems responding to despair with hope

It’s so good                 to be like this
fearful, but alive
     [‘Brother blowing’]

In Somehow, Helen Calcutt takes the difficult subject of a brother’s suicide and responds with a poetry that’s life-affirming and hopeful. ‘We want to see everything’ are the words of the speaker and her child in ‘A conversation with my daughter about my brother’s suicide’. Throughout the pamphlet, everyday moments are revealed as extraordinary and miraculous.

In that same poem, milk on a child’s face leaves a mark ‘as if the moon had kissed her’, and ‘hands’ become ‘leaves / resting on the bedcovers’. In ‘City birds’, a sexual encounter between two strangers in a park is elevated to something beautiful, accompanied by birdsong ‘across languid knots / of trees’.

The poem ‘Grief is like a miracle’ describes an ‘orange rose’ opening ‘atriums of colour’. Meanwhile, ‘A mountain that is your grief you can’t utter’ details a chance meeting with a heron. The poem draws a vivid image of the heron’s ‘sloping / bones’ and of a river ‘fast / and dark: like dirty coins amongst the glitter’.

This is a collection rich with imagery. ‘I am amazed’ says the speaker in ‘The blossom tree’. In Somehow, Calcutt acknowledges despair and chooses to respond to it by paying attention to ‘those rare, yet / common moments’ of amazement and meaning.

Isabelle Thompson

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