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Announce This, Lauren PopeJacket is white. Title large lower case bold font right justified at the top, below which name of author same justification and same font but much much smaller. In the miiddle of the jacket there is a small rectangular box, outlined in orange. It holds a graphic in bold black naif style of a mother with her head and arm curved protectively around a small child or large baby, suggestive of a madonna and child.

Templar Press, 2017    £6.00

Abroad and home

This is a collection of poems featuring bold, clear images and big subject matter — sex, death and birth — set in different countries. One way to read it would be to see it as an exploration of those big themes through a keenly felt and sensuously observed geographical exploration.

In the first few poems, we’re considering sex and gender-based power in Italy:

I don’t like the way you’re holding that fig,
the way it unsettles this moment, and others to come,

so that now, when your hand moves to my lower back
    (‘Proverb’)

This is followed by sex and death, perhaps in Kew:

one long
smoky
post-coital
yawn.

[. . . ]

the blossom opened,
raised its head
towards death.
    (‘Botanics’)

Then there’s death in Pocatello —

‘Someday will I die?’
‘Yes, someday you will.’
‘That will be sad.’
     (‘My sister’s epiphany’)

— and birth in Texas —

The day the gringa
gave birth to their daughter
he drank whiskey from a stranger’s flask
on the back of a bus
from El Salvador to Texas.
    (‘Matins’)

This bold spirit is kept up throughout the pamphlet, giving the sense of a questing attention lightly covering much philosophical and geographical ground.

But there are domestic pleasures, too. There are dramatic episodes in ‘Confessional’: the narrator claims to have stolen a tank of nitrous oxide and talks about the ‘cochineal trail’ of blood from a friend’s nosebleed. But there is something intimate and convincing and appealingly direct in the decision she makes not to push over the ‘him’ (a lover?) arriving drunkenly in her doorway because she fears his

skin corroding
the Fired Earth encaustic tiles
in our doorway

but I love those tiles
(we lived on tinned tomatoes on toast
and cooking wine
last winter to pay for them)

In the same poem, the narrator says her ‘honesty’ is ‘only just beginning’ but it comes across straight and true in her love for those tiles, adventuress though she is (or at least as the later part of the poem portrays her).

Ramona Herdman

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