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Ivory cover with black lettering and a spooky image of a face in a shadowy windowIvory cover with black lettering and an image of two hands with frilly cuffs, one holding a magic wandGranny Garbage, Joan Lennon; Luck, Michael Grieve

HappenStance, 2018  £3.00 each

Roulette of trust

So, HappenStance has just published these two new ‘story poems’: longish poems — short pamphlet length — each telling its own magical story. I can’t help noticing, though, each also tells that story very much from one single point of view: that of its particular narrator. Frankly I’m not sure either is what you might call reliable!

Of course, this is part of the fun: in both cases, after a wee tour of their worlds, I emerge a little ruffled, uncertain, unsettled. Knowing a bit of what it’s like inside Granny Garbage’s world — in her house, and company. Knowing a little of what I’m told it’s like to win win win, in Luck (and how exhausting):

You see, the thrill’s in waiting,
not in winning; in seeing if the streak
will break and, when it doesn’t, choking back
a fist of blueys to see the sunshine out.
(Luck)

But I only know those details these narrators have chosen to show me. I’ll need to loop back. Check again through the scattered clues… And in both cases, of course, the unsettling atmosphere is supplied (almost) entirely by the dance of slippery language. That’s language’s gift and curse: to give, and enlighten; to withhold, and to frighten!

Certainly both narrators have more than their share of fairytale crookedness. In Luck, games are played ‘as if the cards / were see-through’. And Granny G’s sweet reasonings only go so far to reassure:

You’ll have heard that if there’s something
you want — something
you need — something
from Before — then chances are
I’ve got it, somewhere in my lovely jam-packed rooms.

Hm, sounds all right… (a lovely, old granny, with ‘jam-packed rooms’: what’s not to like?) But is it? And, ‘Before’ what?

‘Well, I think you may be in luck’, she also says. In luck? We’ll have to see. Luck, after all, can be its own ‘mirror / in a mirror’, as Luck’s narrator at one point mentions. Winning is a complicated game, and not always quite what it seems — as we might be unlucky enough to discover.

Charlotte Gann