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Flood — Junk, Sean Magnus MartinThe cover is divided diagonally with the largest triangle (white) to the left. On this the title of the pamphlet is in caps, and below this a bold black line, and below that the name of the author in lower case. Just under a third of the cover is a bright blue triangle -- bottom right hand corner, not quite reaching to the top.

Against the Grain Poetry Press, 2018     £5.00

The endless possibilities of ash

There’s something magical in the title of this pamphlet that takes the mind back to childhood, to the wonders of discovery — flotsam and jetsam on beaches — the curiosity aroused when finding objects washed up or hiding in fields or building sites — where they came from, what they were used for, how they came to be lost.

Sean Magnus Martin takes us deeper into origins and associations. One thread that caught me most was the ‘the endless possibilities of driftwood’. I have a particular fascination for wood and the way it can be carved and turned into other objects to be treasured.

The wood of the ash tree, in different forms, runs through these poems:

While walking along the beach
an old man happens upon a limb
of ash [ ... ]

Cradling the branch in both hands
he dreams. In the wood-smoke
of his mind shadows begin to take
shape. A figure emerges from fog,

a boy.    

Ash
limbless, bound like a baby
wrapped in a blanket [ ... ]

cries as his father carves him
makes him into something
he was never supposed to be.

‘Ash’ becomes the boy forever trying to find a place in the world, who ‘sees all of the junk, broken /by the tide, washed-up on shore’, and

[ ... ] dreams of a girl
made from a bough of elm [ ... ]


She sings a song
like the inconsolable night –

a song
only driftwood can know.

 [ ... ]

And so Ash sings too
sends his prayer out
into the night, that all
may find a shore.

Finally, the thought-provoking words of ‘Black Box’:‘I think about the ash/ people of Pompei, still standing / testament to what fire can do’ and ‘I think about Hiroshima and Nagasaki [ ... ] the soul is cinder / the mind eaten / the body pottery.’

This pamphlet is ‘A song for all lost things’. As I read, I was reminded of my grandson who once tried breathing on a fossil, convinced he could bring the frozen creature back to life.

Sean Magnus Martin makes me feel he could.

Valerie Morton