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Becoming Faiake, Jo Reed TurnerThe jacket is pale cream or white, no images. The title is in bold red caps in the top third. The lettering is well spaced and stylish, a slightly artisan-style of line. The word FAIAKE is in bigger letters than Becoming and its letters are placed unevenly, so that every other letter moves up or down and the points of the two As stick right into spaces in the letters of the top line. Below this, very neatly, the small word Poems in italics, and then the author's name in black small caps. The name of the press is centred in very small red caps at the foot of the jacket.

Red Squirrel Press, 2019    £6.00

All the Faiake news that’s fit to print

‘Becoming Faiake’ is entirely immersed in its setting of Corfu, but what stands out for me is how separated from things it somehow feels. The first person ‘I’ only appears in one poem, ‘Faiake I’ — and even that is in the past tense. Overall the pamphlet reminds me of a film script with director’s notes. This idea is set up by the first poem, ‘Writing Beneath the Waves’. The camera lens starts small and then pulls back. We open on a woman seated

              [ ... ] at a window table
below the horizon line, or that’s
what it seems like, as waves crash
against the small peninsula, the one
that has a pool cut into rock where
the elderly bathe throughout the year.

Throughout the book we see further examples of this poetic camera work. For example, in ‘Pomegranate’

she felt a soft surge, a stirring
as she swallowed truths one
by one until an unfamiliar
bitterness caught her throat.
Spitting out the reddened seeds
like a broken rosary

That ‘broken rosary’ is a lovely image in a collection full of them, the most notable of which is the one that brings proceedings to a halt. The final poem, ‘Birthing Stars in Kassiopi’, offers a parallel to the morning of the opening piece, as well as an image of hope and light:

Convulsing in delight, she gave birth
to a thousand brilliant stars, that over eons
agglomerate into another sun.

Despite the absence of lyric ‘I’, there’s a strong sense of one person’s connection to Greece, and a clear impression of time spent in situ, as if the publication has been shot on location. The notion of the Brit abroad is one that feels immensely pertinent in the month of Brexit. This collection strikes me as the best kind of guidebook for how we might learn to be part of somewhere other than the UK.


Mat Riches

 

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