Page 20 - Demo
P. 20

showcasebut her crime isn’t evident immediately. And because we’re seeing everything throughher eyes, we’re on her side from the start. Then it emerges that she’s been groominga boy for sex from the age of ten, and your world tilts sideways – it’s a very interesting literary experience. She’s not depicted as an evil person, yet she’s clearly done this terrible thing. I think it’s important to have fiction from the point of view of people who have committed heinous crimes, to make you reconsider how evil the person, and the act, really are.The narrative style in ‘Doll’ by Rhonda Collis is oddly detached, which gives the impression of numbness or denial, and works extremely well with the graphic description of the baby in the bathtub. This is such a haunting story, a bit like the horror genre, but wonderfully restrained, which somehow adds to the sense of trauma.You might have realised by now thatI’m a big fan of the peculiar, which is why I particularly liked ‘Who the Lord loved best’. I appreciated its dry humour and class war aspect, how the power of the rich womanis depicted. And I had absolutely no idea of where it was heading; that unpredictability is a real strength.Turning to the poems, there was something very chilling about the ‘endless care’ that was taken with the bones at the end of ‘The kid’ by Julie Irigaray. The imagery in this poem is powerful and upsetting: ‘dismembered like Osiris’. And using the second person to address the dead child stresses the fact that a corpse is not normally treated as human. As with all the poems I chose, this one is doing something formal on the page, albeit not in any classical sense.I am always put off when I get thesense with a poem that the lines could be rearranged into a paragraph of prose. Bythis I don’t mean that a poet should striveto be ‘poetic’, but she should try to create lines that are doing more than just putting one word after another syntactically. Julie Lumsden’s ‘The hangman’, for example, is rather blunt and terse, totally ‘unpoetic’in the usual sense, but really effective as a result, with a forceful ‘this is how thingsare’ cynicism in both voice and content. Ruth Ellis, a Marilyn Monroe lookalike who murdered her lover, was the last womanto be executed in the UK. It doesn’t matter whether the poet has researched who the second-to-last woman executed was, or invented her. I like the way she suggests that those protesting on Ellis’ behalf are guilty of choosing her rather than other, less photogenic, victims of capital punishment.20 Mar/Apr/May 2017 mslexiaAnd that we are complicit, too, for wanting a bit of vicarious glamour and horror in our lives. All this subtle reasoning is achieved so economically in the poem.I thought that everything about Rachel Spence’s ‘Fishing in the Dodecanese’ was wonderful: its lineation, syntax, imagery, structure, rhythm, shape. The staggered lineation and line endings are doing a lot of work, drawing attention to certain words: ‘walnut’, ‘badly’, ‘clenched’, ‘wriggling’. And the syntax is stretched tightly over the odd format, so the sentences strain tautly against the structure, which keeps you on yourtoes as a reader. I also enjoy the fact that I can’t paraphrase it exactly, like with Glyn Maxwell’s early poems; and I don’t know exactly what’s happening, so I keep puzzling over it in a pleasing way. As long as you sense the poet knows what she’s doing, that’s half the fun of a poem.‘Deerfall’, by Rasha Abdulhadi, is another poem whose meaning is not entirely clear on a first reading; but rereading and rereading keeps adding to the layers of understanding. The first image, of the deer, reads like a classic crime scene, but is in fact being used to set up a set of different associations: about women’s bodies, about mothers and daughters, and about the life-and-death decision of abortion. The speaker of the poem shifts – ‘your mother’, ‘my mother’, ‘I’, ‘i’ – eliding the generations. Whose was the wanted baby? Whose baby was terminated? The narrative starts off clearly enough,then becomes more and more muddledand disjointed, embodying the guilt of the speaker.Bernie Crawford’s ‘This is just to say’ isa deliberate parody of a famous William Carlos Williams poem in which the poet ‘confesses’: ‘I have eaten / the plums / that were in / the icebox // and which / you were probably / saving / for breakfast // Forgiveme / they were delicious / so sweet / and so cold’. Except it’s more an act of bravado than a confession, and entirely free of guilt. That poem has always annoyed me; it’s so passive aggressive. Whereas Crawford’s pasticheis refreshingly honest, and full of wry and righteous anger. Brilliant. ■she’s not depicted as an evil person, yet she’s clearly done this terrible thingI am always put off when I getthe sense witha poem that the lines could be rearranged into a paragraph of prose

   18   19   20   21   22