Material by Ros Barber (Anvil books) – poetry review

material-ros-barber1Ros Barber’s “Material” largely concerns loss and moving on, sometimes touching on loss we don’t always recognise.  In “Relatively New Development”, where new roads are given

“flower names topped off with Close.

Close as the mosses crammed into the cracks
of kerbstones, flying ants in summer plague,
ungreeted neighbours, every one detached.
Close as a city three days’ walk away…”

The ambiguity of whether detached also describes the household as well as the building, is also the loss of connection, the irony of social creatures aspiring to be detached.

There’s also an acknowledgement that motherhood – sleep-free nights and days of irritation – isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – and a loss of individual identity as a pre-child woman is lost to the label mother – although tempered in the knowledge children survive.  Additionally there’s the worry of turning into the woman who told you that you were the most beautiful person in the room apart from your sister on your wedding day and not seeing the tears she provoked.  In “The Old Ship Hotel”, driven to considering deliberately falling and the worst case scenario,

“…Quite dead below the hips
and angrily alive inside the brain.

Ten years of waking up began at once.
She slipped the latch and left the man alone.
And ten years later she can use her lungs
to thank the air and breathe it as a poem
against the patient breaking of the waves.”

Even when world-weary bitterness might be justified, in “Millennium Eve”,

“Not any New Year.  The one where she’d be struck
by all the beauty of a world now hers;
mistakes complete and suddenly last century
and he, the one, would be on hand to kiss.

For time to put your problems in perspective,
for one split second, life to fall into line…
but midnight comes and no-one’s there to kiss you,
and someone grabs and swallows your champagne…”

Ros Barber doesn’t sound bitter, just realistic and honest.  “Material” strikes many chords and is recognisably poetry.  Recommended.


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