“Flowers, All Sorts in Blossom, Figs, Berries and Fruits Forgotten” Oisín Breen – poetry review

Oisin Breen book coverA collection of three poetry sequences, “Isn’t the act of placing flowers on a tomb a gesture of bringing a little life back to the dead?”, “Dublin and the Loose Footwork of Deity” and “Her Cross Carried, Burnt”. The long titles suit Oisín Breen’s meandering gathering of thoughts style and approach. Motifs occur throughout, giving the poems a framework and a signal to the reader that the poems are not wandering off the topic they are addressing albeit indirectly. From part one of the first sequence,

“Yet I placate my father’s grave with calcite flowers.
Yet my grief is insufficient for I see it dissipate.
I am but missteps and false starts,
a captured stillness that records my ill intent.

Yet I lack the wherewithall to yield to the palpable thrum
It is extrinsic,
and dressed in surges of undifferentiated starlight,
I am asymptotic, and bifurcated in mnemonic flight,
and each point is plotted in baroque notation
as plush woven sounds wash in the rippling coarse-grain of transition.

.              Where phased space enacts a hallowing,
.                                in between the lines
.              of porous stalks and motion begetting blooms.”

Inanimate objects can’t be placated so there is projection here, the flowers are an offering that’s become an empty gesture. The son doesn’t feel as if he will live up to his father, yet it feels as if the son is projecting those expectations onto his father, imaging that if the father were alive, he would be disappointed even though there’s no evidence this would be the case. Comparing the achievements of a long life against a life that’s barely started (the son’s), is not comparing like with like and the younger life will be found wanting. Later in the sequence childhood is remembered, in part six,

“We were barefoot because we had been in the sea,
and the nearby road was made of gravel,
and it hurt to walk on,
and the sorrows of the sea-cliffs punctured the stillness.

I had because in the final analysis, I was young.
I had placed a last act of submission above one of love.

Now, in memory, each breath scorches those left behind footprints into a
sculpture of invigorating presence and an eerie allotment of dumb
abstinence.

Now it is breached only by the skulking din of chattering teeth; a charter
of trapped flies; and a grey decaying weave.

Now reverie is spun inverse as the needle snaps,

.             and I traverse the space of its hands
.             and this is what constitutes the giving of names.”

“We” is a group of children. Again the narrator’s emotion is projected onto inanimate objects, here cliffs. The narrative wanders off into introspection and lacks clarity, indicating the reader would be best to suspend belief and follow the sounds and rhythm of words.

Later still, from part eleven,

“Hope it is then, I’d been waiting for this: a tuning fork a cataclysm of
silence, and the tearful face of my mother? I have failed her.
I can not hear. I do not understand. I can not hear. I’m sound-blind and
bereft. I can not hear and it’s the horror she feels; she made me.

Here it is then, an apocrypha of angels and monsters and barrel bombs and
love and forgiveness and repentance and such relentlessness that leaves
me so rent I can only exhale.”

There are some grand statements here, at attempt to capture the sense of not understanding and losing communication with a mother.

The second sequence is set in Dublin but a section references Ashkan and his new home without explanation,

“I took it from the newspaper:

Ashkan’s new home is in part of Dachau, a former concentration camp where the Nazis murdered 41,500 people, some in agonising medical experiments. Under the Nazis, the complex of buildings where Ashkan lives was used as a school of racially motivated alternative medicine surrounded by a slave-labour plantation known as the ‘herb garden’. Asked if he feels uneasy about the site’s history, Askhan replies with a resigned smile: ‘I just wanted a roof over my head.’

There is no further exploration of Askhan’s response. Readers are left to figure out the truth behind the report. The narrator merely reports without comment.

Later it continues,

“We are all, in part, pulsars,
etching secondary moments,
in which we have something been,
with furious, tempestuous light,
into the fibre skin of space,
into those nested Russian dolls of me and other’s fantasy.

.             So then, it is that while you undress me,
.             you undress just another version of yourself.”

It’s an interesting, if underdeveloped, idea that undressing as part of an intimate act, an individual still chooses what gets revealed and can still hide parts of themselves.

The final sequence mentions, “It is only for her/ The piano plays,” later, “And the bassline kicks in.// We were poor” and it ends,

“And though the flowers, they have fallen.
Flowers, and fruits, all sorts of blossom,
Figs, berries and thorns forgotten.
And though the fruit it has long since rotten,
Tending her grave, it remains as pretty as ever.

Each year I sing this better.
Many lines, but one song.

I incant, I recant, I incant and inflame.”

Overall, “Flowers, All Sorts in Blossom, Figs, Berries and Fruits Forgotten” is a journey through adulthood, loss of parents and developing as a individual. Its narrator meanders through gathering observations and thoughts. At times he could be seeing Dublin through the lens of Eliot’s “The Wasteland”, at others, Joyce’s Dublin is recognisable. It’s ambitious, designed to have cerebral appeal and determinedly unfashionable. No stripped back contemporary style here, but the ornate vocabulary suits its style.

No publisher’s details or links were given.

Update: Publisher details are

Publisher: Hybrid Press
Website: https://www.hybriddreich.co.uk/
Available to pre-order in the UK now, with US orders shortly to come.


“The Significance of a Dress” is being launched in London from 2pm on Sunday 8 March at the Stephen Lawrence Gallery, University of Greenwich, and in Leicester from 7pm on Wednesday 11 March at Central Library, Bishop Street, Leicester LE1 6AA (free entry).

Emma Lee the Significance of a Dress launch 7pm 11 March 2020 Leicester Central Library LE1 6AA

“Never Play Games with the Devil” Tolu’ A. Akinyemi (The Roaring Lion Newcastle) – book review

Never Play Games with the Devil Tolu' A Akinyemi book coverTolu’ has featured in various poetry slams and spoken word events in the UK and beyond so it’s unsurprising his poems features memorable phrases. The collection is split into three sections. The first looks at the expectations of others place on young men and the consequences. The second turns political speaking out against a negligent, unaccountable state. The final turns to relationships. From the first section, “Petulance” is in the voice of a young man and starts,

“We wore labels with no trademarks
Petulant. Recalcitrant. Worthless.
Our backs had lashes tattooed on it
that became nicknames.
And some of us were tagged street boys,
we were jailed in the prison of our habits.”

“It” at end of line 3 should be “them” since “backs” are plural, but this is a strong beginning. “Labels without trademarks” is indicative of the labels having no financial worth and no commercial advantage. The labels become tattoos, as if visible on skin, so the men start to live as their nicknames. The “jailed in the prison of our habits” is a surprise since the poem seems to be building up the idea the men are behaving as others expect and therefore have no agency or control over their destiny. The poem suggests this is a bad habit that can be broken, although it won’t be easy to do so. Not made obvious, but the reason for the men being written off is racism, the “lashes” from a whipping could be dolled out by a sharp tongue, or more literal, the whipping of a slave. Tolu’ is Nigerian, now settled in England. The idea of turning a rough deal into something positive is revisited in “Chocolate Skin Man” which starts,

“Wearing my skin like a hard nut & a tough cookie.
I wore my dreams on my sleeve –
chocolate skin does not crack.

Show them that melanin is the new gold,”

It ends on a throwaway “The chocolate skin man is self-made.” That’s not entirely true, judging by the page long list of acknowledgements, and the cliche does the poem no favours. More interesting is “Kill me slowly”,

“Tell me of my mate who went to the moon
& kissed the sun. Don’t forget the one who
built a mansion in Mars.

Tell me one at a time.
Blurt the words till I freak out
& my life becomes a blur.”

The exaggeration adds to the sense of being left behind, of friends’ achievements slowly chipping away at someone’s self-confidence.

The political poems look back to Nigeria, in “The Pastor has lost his voice”

“You see exaggerated killings, I see bloodbath,
I see clueless men in the corridors of power
I see a pastor who has lost his way.
Give us a national minister of mourning.

Never say errand boy, star boy divides opinion.
I see filth, I see dollars in Kano,
I see bigotry, ethnicity, a cabal-controlled government
& a pastor who has lost his voice.”

These are didactic and lack nuance. The final section, on love, is the shortest. “One Woman” starts “Teach me to love one woman till my bones grow frail/ & my skin wrinkles” and continues,

“Teach me to dance with one woman,
teach me to dance with her song alone”

It seems writing poems about happiness is harder. I can see a live audience being more forgiving of a grasp for a familiar, immediate turn of phrase and allowing their focus to hone in on the more interesting metaphors that offer depth and room for engagement. On the page, however, the weaknesses detract as ideas that are interesting aren’t explored in depth. Page-readers have the advance of being able to pause, reflect, come back and re-read. This poems don’t yet offer readers the space to do this. There are some good ideas, plenty of memorable phrases but the poems feel like prototypes, not yet the ready-to-market completed production.

“Never Play Games with the Devil” is available via Amazon.


Emma Lee the Significance of a Dress launch 7pm 11 March 2020 Leicester Central Library LE1 6AA

“I, Ursula” Ruth Stacey (V.Press) – poetry review

I Ursula Ruth Stacey book coverThe title poem blurs the boundaries between reality and fantasy, life and death, putting this collection firmly in the realm of inspiration, symbolism, muses and storytelling, “I, Ursula” starts, “You tell me that still pools of water/ used to echo the dead; I stare –/ it reflects an ancient forest”. “Rose Red” may be a fairy tale character, but there’s not much of a happy ending here,

“He brings me white roses that smell
of other girls; it is torture.
The snow is melting and I throw him out
of the doorway, my foot in his ample arse.
I just can’t stand him anymore.
I sweep every part of him away,

the tufts sparkle in the daylight.
But at night, as I brush my long dark hair,
plait it into ropes, I dwell on how
he would bite my cheek red,
and I hope he comes back.
I miss the warmth of the bear in my bed.”

Muses may inspire but they also have limited agency and often find themselves reduced to the role they have been given rather than being allowed to be fully human. Rose Red is left at home while the bear prowls elsewhere, the white roses symbolise friendship rather than the desired love and yet she’s left pining for him. Unsurprisingly madness features too, in “Dark Thoughts, Lately”,

“Did anyone gather the ashes
of the Jacobean witch women?

Perhaps their children would
wait for the embers to cool
and fill a sack to take home,
embrace it during the bat-dark

night, when only the wolf
smiles and the rest of us shiver.
It is always the river, deep
and cold like the cruel slap

of the midwife after the heart-loud
clamour of the womb.”

The echoes and consonance give the rhythm and sound patterns a chilling note fitting for when superstition deprives children of mothers. Again there’s a sense of lack of agency and that only certain emotions and feelings are permitted. Children aren’t allowed to openly grieve but have to steal small comforts from a unwelcoming world.

“Exit Songs” ponders on the last song someone might hear,

“porcelain thin, an aria smoked. Some opera singer
lifting her voice to see you on your way,

and not that when the door clunked open and you
were absent in the eyes

of the paramedic, sighs echoed from Radio 4.
But perhaps it was just silence, your bloody silence.”

Radio 4 is primarily talk radio, music relegated to a supporting role of sound effects and theme tunes. “Silence” introduced in the last night isn’t just the silence of death, but also suggestive of someone unresponsive giving others the silent treatment as a means of control. The voice in “The Curiosity of Redness” is unidentified and alien, a deliberate choice,

“We have no feelings, only curiosity;
that is the word humans use – I have
read their dictionaries and oil paint
charts, pondered on their destruction
and pointless cycles of war: it all
comes back to redness.

A blood womb delivers each one –
ruby-splayed bodies, the surprising cut.
Veins pour dark red onto tarmac
or sand. I observe their relentless desire
to disassemble one another…”

This observer sees separation: the cutting of an umbilical cord dividing child from mother, the battlefields and death by machine. It’s also a strong voice, not swayed by human argument but making its own observations and drawing conclusions. The alien doesn’t interrogate or try to communication with the subject under observation. Like muses, humans are given no chance to explain themselves, to argue that not all of us behave like that.

Not all the poems are esoteric or concerned with strangeness. “Infiltration” looks at police who were encouraged to infiltrate groups of peaceful protestors – often for environmental causes – invariably male police targeting women and starting relationships under false names and pretending share their interests and policies as he

“Gets up and reads long lists of things with
the right amount of resentment for authority.
He listens to her whisper rhyming couplets
in her scented sleep. He feels some remorse.
The boss is pleased with him, says he is the
best undercover guy on the force. We’ll bust
these poetry rings right apart by Christmas.”

Poetry slinks undercover, but refuses to die. Overall “I, Ursula” is a chilling, memorable exploration of the darker side of the muse. She is stalked, hunted, desired and formed in other’s image, a body on which to project desires. Rarely does she get her own voice but here she contemplates the power dynamics in relationships and how she is used to create art, often to her own detriment. Despite the projection of delicacy and fragility, she has to remain strong with a will to survive. Ruth Stacey has created a powerful collection.

“I, Ursula” is available from V. Press


Emma Lee the Significance of a Dress launch 7pm 11 March 2020 Leicester Central Library LE1 6AA

The Significance of a Dress book launch Leicester Central Library, Bishop St, Leicester LE1 6AA from 7pm. Free Entry.

Book Trailer at Arachne Press: https://arachnepress.com/books/poetry/the-significance-of-a-dress/.


 

“Winter with Eva” Elaine Baker (V. Press) book review

Winter with Eva Elaine Baker front cover“Winter with Eva” is a love affair against a backdrop of Brexit between Sean, who is British, and Eva, who is Romanian. It starts gently with request from Sean for her to meet him in the park in “Sun”, who observes,

“the way you hunch down
make yourself small as a child
to say hello to dogs

the way you touch your palms together
press your lips
when you can’t find the words

the way you turn your face towards the sun
and close your eyes.”

It creates an image of Eva as gentle, courteous enough to greet dogs properly, someone whose English is not yet fluent and someone who enjoys simple pleasures. Sean is aware of her back story, in “Creation” he watches her work at a charcoal lump until she can draw with it,

You draw your city of spikes, Bucegi Mountains bristling with pines, fields
you flatten to sky, sky you stripe and stripe and stripe
until you ache.

You draw someone and I can tell
it’s you.
You scratch around for dirt and spit into your palm,
work to make the paste to paint a man,
the man you knew before.
You use the paste to paint his hand that wore the glove that ripped the heart
out.”

The “spikes”, “bristling”, the sky darkened with stripes of charcoal, the act of spitting, the “glove that ripped the heart out” all build a picture of menace. This place that was formerly home is no longer welcoming. The poem ends on a different tone,

“and now we run,
leave behind the pines the fields the city spikes the man
the man. We roll together
under the moon,
under the pinhole eyes of stars.”

The stars suggest celebration. However, the notion of being watched is reference to again in “Mirror” in a trip back to Bucharest, “that feeling you had sometimes when growing up/ of being watched” that draws the contrast of the joy of being understood in English when chatting to a stranger on the street. Sadly the poem ends with a “go home scum” message in block capitals scrawled on a bathroom mirror. Eva said she thought she was home. But it’s not just external racists that hint the relationship is changing. In “Glass” Sean dreams “All the stars are broken./ Even their insides are dark.// Eva, you’ve done this.” Sean notices Eva keeps nipping out to the corner shop, run by a Polish man. Sean didn’t even know that Eva could speak Polish. In “Cupboard”, he hears Eva’s phone ringing in the hours just past midnight,

“You take it in the kitchen
and I’m under the covers leaning –
aching –
trying so hard to catch the shushed things
that even the brick dust in the walls
is deafening.”

Sean is faced with a dilemma, let her go or try to keep her.

The affair is captured succinctly and small details allowed to accumulate into a bigger picture. Sean feels love and tenderness towards Eva and remains keenly aware that however much England feels like home, it’s still a place she is adjusting to against a trauma of being uprooted and facing anti-European sentiments and attacks. He understands her affinity for the Polish man yet holds out hope his own love is strong enough for her. If this were prose, it would be a short story rather than a novel, so it being pamphlet length feels right. As part of a full collection would probably end up a lengthy coherence sequence that wouldn’t fit amongst single poems. There is a strong sense of narrative arc: two people meeting, falling in love, sharing their lives until cracks show ending with Sean’s dilemma. The poems balance celebration and disintegration. A satisfying read.

“Winter with Eva” is available from V. Press.


The Significance of a Dress book launch Leicester Central Library, Bishop St, Leicester LE1 6AA from 7pm. Free Entry.

Book Trailer at Arachne Press: https://arachnepress.com/books/poetry/the-significance-of-a-dress/.

Emma Lee the Significance of a Dress launch 7pm 11 March 2020 Leicester Central Library LE1 6AA

“a girl in a blue dress” Rachel Burns (Vane Women Press) – poetry review

a girl in a blue dress Rachel Burns book coverThese poems present a wry look at life through a series of keenly observed vignettes, such as library where “all of us are here in this library/ because we have fallen down somewhere/ be it by pure bad luck, bad decisions or despair” and later in “Hail to the Library and the Thief” where a homeless man is searching for the newspaper he’d left on the reading table but is now missing,

“and I want to shake his head through the dirt and grime
but instead, I shake my head. He scrutinises my paper
glares at me, then walks away, shaking his head in disbelief
that in this library, the last vestibule of human decency,
lies a thief of a poor man’s broadsheet.”

Readers are left to ponder why a poor man would be so eager to read a Murdoch-owned newspaper, but there’s a principle at stake here. A venue that provides a connection for a disparate group of people and now someone has violated it.

Interspersed with observations of others are personal poems, such as a “Message to my 16-year-old Self” watching a film,

“the one where Richard Gere
carries Debra Winger
out through the factory gates.

I was that small town girl
waiting for the white knight
to come and sweep me off my feet.

Don’t wait, don’t you dare wait.”

The poem is also a reflection on the double standards dished out to girls. Boys are encouraged to lift themselves up while girls get taught that if they’re pretty enough or dream hard enough, their prince will come. There’s a mix of personal and external inspiration in the poem that might have inspired the title. The cover image is ‘Untitled (know as Blue Girl or Tess Dominski) by William Sommer (1867-1949 and the poem “Blue Dress” features a mother’s friend who makes dresses for neighbours’ children, this one “with upside down umbrellas// the pattern facing the wrong way.”

“She likes to finish the dress with you wearing it,
you stand head bowed while she stitches the hem.

Stone still, watching the needle and thread going in and out,
in and out, till she is done. You go outside and show off

your new dress to the others, playing hop scotch
and skipping games in the lane. Only you don’t join in,

you walk to the woods, towards the river, in your new blue dress,
with upside down umbrellas, the pattern facing the wrong way.

A pheasant spooks you out of your skin, hurling itself into the air,
the harsh rasping ricochets through the trees

the noise scraping at your insides, hurting your ears.”

The humiliation of standing in underwear with the treat of being pin-pricked if you dare more, the pattern being upside down – a suggestion the neighbour was a well-intentioned amateur – matched with the inability to join in games which are left to search for a peace that isn’t forthcoming ratchet up the shame of being poor and the sense of not fitting in. Home life didn’t seem to be much happier, in “Attempts on Dad’s Life”, Dad dares complain about the (boring) choice of dinner,

“She stabs him with the fork.

It isn’t an accident, another time
a small vegetable knife
a trip to Casualty for stitches,
there are countless attempts on his life

but still unheeded he enters the small
square kitchen, and we are helpless
to warn him as we sit at the table
like good little doll children.”

The children are silenced by intimidation and feel as if they are manipulated into playing a role of being seen and not heard. It’s not a family that allows its laundry to be washed in public. It’s also one where children don’t ask questions, which might have helped with the themes in “Catholic Girl Ghazal”, where Madonna is the singer and her song is about a teenage girl summoning up the courage to tell her father she’s pregnant by the boyfriend he doesn’t like,

“One by one, we all succumb to temptation, yet another teenage pregnancy
and the Catholic Church spits us out, slams the altar door, even Madonna’s

smile turns into scowl, we have brought shame on our families,
we are thrown like dogs into the street, a broken, fallen Madonna

and my friends say, Rachel, giving it up, you’re too young. I listen to Madonna
sing her silly pop song, Papa don’t Preach, and I laugh, but I keep my baby.”

More secrets are explored in “Ann (after L S Lowry)”

“Failing to please Mother he painted crowds of people,
the football match, the Miners’ Gala,

people gathered outside shops and churches.
He painted the mill towns, landscape and buildings

and people, always people. He hid Ann underneath his oil paintings.
He always returned to Ann. Her face haunting him night after night.

People often asked him, Who is this woman? Who is Ann?
His reply is evasive. As if he eluded the truth, even from himself.”

This poet, however, is not elusive. Rachel Burns’ characters are recognisable, their portaits built in a judicious choice of a telling phrase. She speaks clearly often in a confessional tone which interlaces innocence and experience, allowing key details to build an outline for readers to fill in. “girl in a blue dress” reaches beyond the personal, also telling the stories of others with compassion and understanding. No one’s the butt of a joke or a punchline here and characters are given space to not only speak but do so in their own voices. “a girl in a blue dress” is a strong debut.

“a girl in a blue dress” is available from Vane Women Press


Emma Lee the Significance of a Dress launch 7pm 11 March 2020 Leicester Central Library LE1 6AAThe Significance of a Dress book launch Leicester Central Library, Bishop St, Leicester LE1 6AA from 7pm. Free Entry.

Book Trailer at Arachne Press: https://arachnepress.com/books/poetry/the-significance-of-a-dress/.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

they lit fires/lenti hatch o yog Raine Geoghegan (Hedgehog Press)

Raine Geoghegan they lit firesA slender pamphlet that acts as a recording of oral histories of Romany people in England, for example “Under a Gooseberry Bush” (Romany words: mulo, spirits of ancestors; rackleys, women; patrin, leaves tied or left by the roadside as signals to let family follow a wagon)

“I was named john ripley, after me dad, the ‘ead rom came down and blessed me, ee tied a little bag of rowan berries round me neck to ward off the bad mulo and to bring kushtie bok. all the rackley’s put a little coin in me ‘and, as was the custom. luckily me aunt and uncle ‘ad left patrin signs along the way so we ‘ad plenty of folk to wet me little ‘ead, it’s not everyday a chavi gets borned under a gooseberry bush. ‘course I never ‘eard the end of it, me mum and dad teased me rotten and when I tells folks they don’t believe it, mind you, it set me up fer life, gave me strength and I’ve ‘ad a bloody kushtie life, I can tell yer. me mum used to tell me this story over and over, to tell yer the truth, I’ve loved tellin’ it as much as ‘earing it.”

It’s always tricky using non-standard English as some readers may not make the effort to follow the text and, in some contexts can appear disrespectful. However, use of standard English here wouldn’t accurately record patterns of speech and risks taking away the stories from those telling them. A triolet, “Koring Chiriclo 1” reflects on a time when Romany’s [sic] were forced off the roads into houses they were saddened by the fact that they could no longer hear the cuckoo sing,

“I’ve loved to hear the cuckoo sing.
I’m a Romany, always travelling
from Huntingdon to King’s Lynn.
I’ve loved to hear the cuckoo
since I was a chavi in a sling.
Summer, autumn, winter, ah spring.
I’ve loved to hear the cuckoo sing.
I’m a Romany. Always travelling.”

Elsewhere, “Dirty Little Flower Girl” is a comment by a bully to a Romany girl at school. The Romany doesn’t tell but her mother knows what happens as the bully lashes out and leaves bruises on the Romany girl’s legs,

“she marched me to school. we went straight to the ‘ead teacher’s office. I ‘ad to wait in the corridor, there was a strong smell of polish. I sat there for ages, I saw mrs frances go it, on the wall in front of me was a picture of the rounders team, I thought I’d like to be in that team, they all looked ‘appy and friendly. after a while me teacher came out, walking fast, looking down at ‘er feet. me mum came out. She grabbed me and took me to the class room, she said,

“‘it’s done and sorted, now go and learn my babe.'”

The Romany girl never got to join the rounders team. It records the stigma and prejudice Romanies face through the eyes of a child, written off as stupid and afraid to complain of being bullied for fear of not being believed and making things worse.

“they lit fires” is a collection of monologues, triolets, haibun and songs, collecting stories and characters giving a view into Romany lives. Each a vignette of an aspect of a life spent moving on, selling small goods to raise funds and passing on knowledge of herbs and customs down through generations and generally being met with suspicion and stigma. However, a pamphlet doesn’t really give enough space to expanding the pieces into a fuller collection, a recorded oral history of a misunderstood way of life. Raine Geoghegan treats her subjects with respect and empathy, giving snapshots of insight into their lives.

They lit fires/lenti hatch o yog is available from Hedgehog Press


Emma Lee The Significance of a Dress cover imageThe Significance of a Dress by Emma Lee is available for pre-order from Arachne Press.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

“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,

“Time
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