“Patience” Nina Lews (V. Press) – poetry review

Nina Lewis Patience book cover“Patience” concerns memory and preservation of memories and former ways of life before they are lost or destroyed in the name of progress. An old warehouse with “houses set like baby shoes around its feet”, originally built for the workers to live in, meets its “Demolition”,

“The implosion brings the right-hand side down.
Bonded warehouse engulfed in exothermic sugar clouds.

The building disappears:
baby shoes obliterated from view,
until the dust settles.”

It’s left unclear as to whether the houses are earmarked for reuse or have also been abandoned. The domestic language of “sugar clouds” suggest they still could be lived in once the dust has settled and been cleared. The repetition of “baby shoes” is a reminder of family and legacy but also could be a reference to Hemingway’s six word story where the baby shoes are not worn, creating a sense of loss. In another poem, “Shrink-wrapped”, beloved objects are protected against loss,

does not touch
these objects,
fingerprints, easily wiped.

She would wrap you
in clear plastic
if she could. Protect you
from deterioration.

Force away
the hands of time.”

Here the problem isn’t legacy: the objects are protected and will be passed on, but the implication is that, wrapped in concern about preservation, these objects are not enjoyed and used either. The subject of the poem is so concerned with the future, she doesn’t live in the present. It also raises questions about what we preserve for future generations and whether future generations will continue the preservation or demolish the objects. Those of us in the present can’t control what future generations will choose to keep or discard. A similar concern of keeping valued objects preserved and enjoyed is raised in “Keep the Light” about an oil painting of purple flowers,

“The picture can’t be silenced,

still asks for my hand. I get up,
reach into the frame and pull a flower;
stamens leave an oily trace
on my skin, iridescent trails highlight my fingerprints,

identify my existence in this room,
this place my whole life fits into:
the twelve squared metres
haven of bed and wall.”

The current dweller is leaving their imprints on their property. These may or may not be preserved into the future. But for now the room is home, lived in and enjoyed.

There are poems about elderly relatives and caring for those with dementia. In “Tesseomancy” a granddaughter inherits her grandmother’s teacups from which the grandmother used to read fortunes from tea leaves,

Always stir the blend to consistent tone,
embrace the warmth, allow it to resonate;
nurture the rising spirit.

She empties her mind of frequent thoughts:
imagines those dark leaves, the iron of experience.
The house grows cold.

She swirls the dregs three times,
allows her grandmother to conjure the situation.
Leaves in her hands.”

“Patience” is a reminder of the value of connection between generations, legacies of objects and character passed from the contemporary to the future. The poems show sensitivity and an acute focus, exploring different aspects of an overall theme. Their gentleness acts as an invitation to the reader to engage with and interpret the poems. Their pace is measured which combines with a calm tone to explore grief, loss, legacy and intimacy. The title, “Patience” is apt. These are slow poems to enjoy at leisure.

“Patience” is available from V. Press.

“The Significance of a Dress” will be published by Arachne Press on 27 February 2020.

Emma Lee The Significance of a Dress cover image


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