Published by Hazel Press: http://www.hazelpress.co.uk
“she forgets for blissed moments / she can’t breathe here this isn’t air” (in the kelp forest)
What I love most about this short collection is the absence of ego: it is about the words, about the poems, with no distractions. And the poems are gentle – perhaps subtle is a better word – or slant – explorations of a theme.
We have 10 ‘pairs’ of poems, gathered under a theme or a title – beneath, gift, taught, rise for example – each poem has its own title. None of the poems have the author identified anywhere – although of course we do know that Naomi’s splendidly dreamlike in the kelp forest recently won the Keats – Shelley Prize – so presumably the poem twinned with that, is Mort’s. Otherwise we don’t know how this was done – did they agree themes and select poems from their own back catalogues? Did they pass poems back and forth in a conversation, adding themes and ‘sheafing’ them later. It doesn’t matter. enjoy the poems for their own worth, word after word, verse after verse, like steps on a walk in a landscape you don’t know but which reveals itself to be intriguing and beautiful.
from Dive: “…no time to think of lungs / bursting, our shocking selves / hanging / in suspension.“
In Yukon: “Night came, bear-quiet” and “...they were men winter dredged patience from.“
Under the theme “In“, both poems use geography and the physical world to speak of sex / desire, and quite possibly the reverse is also true. Which would seem to move the collection towards the idea of a conversation, a back and forth.
“a sky / that puts the valley / in a bowl and gently / holds it under.” (Wash)
The theme “Reflection” includes the poem Their Hallway, which dwells beautifully on belonging, ‘one’s place’, perhaps with an added twist of imposter syndrome hanging around: “The mirror a constant check on the possibility of belonging in such a house, such a part of the city, such a family…” The hallway being a place of passage, a place you move through to get somewhere (else).
“Taught” yields longer meditations: the six sections of Condition, on a mother in her garden, “cultivating / her hundred different types of clematis.” thinking all the while on her ageing and failing body which, “is pragmatic now“. While the long thin poem of Tightrope, takes us between the fruit trees of Grandfather’s garden while learning lessons of self-belief, self-control and the inevitability of a fall at some point; “Once I did fall / it was a man / a small loss / of concentration”
Later, in the collection, someone has a vision of heaven, in which she hopes her parents, “…are making each other laugh again, as they did before the kids and marriage.”
These poems seem to have taken advantage of the enforced slowing down, the quietness of recent months, to move into some daylight that may well not have been their portion before all this, and we are the better for bending closer and listening intently to their attempts to understand what is around them, to enjoy the beauties, to wrangle with the problems and disappointments of life – there is even a little space for a well-directed barb at current events: “First, Thatcher took the milk. / Now there are lat thin kids denied free meals.” (Happy Meal). But in the end, this is about contemplation of self: each poet’s place in the world, how they relate to the people and stimuli around them, whether those reactions have been reasonable or unavoidable: “I think of my life as a study / in becoming glass – “, “and when our boy cries / I have already shattered.” (Glass)
“Something rare is vanishing” (Hare)
One of the great things we have lost in recent years, is the art of quiet contemplation, of considered replies and reactions. This collection makes a case for us to relearn these skills, for us to insist on compassion, on taking more time to give a better answer, to avoid knee-jerk responses, to restore thoughtfulness. There is a great requirement for us to slow down.
“When the breeze moves their blooms / they turn as one, shouting blue murder / into the wind.” (Condition)