I do like this idea of a ‘converted father’, someone who after his passing is returned in the poetry his daughter writes as a dialogue with and an impression of their continuing relationship. That this continuance – this conversion – depends on memory of the past in all of its potent detail as well as complete fabrication then and now makes poetic truths anew, this in the writing and, presumably, our reading and imagining.
In the opening poem Calls, we see the beginning of the tender exchanges that occur in the ruse of the present which surely reflects moments from the past when
‘My converted father calls me occasionally.
It’s usually night-time. Have you got home safely?
He tells me he has but can’t remember
the route he took…’
and in this sharing of the inquiry, father and daughter merge, especially in the poem’s sweet ending.
The subterfuge explored in Coffee indicates a past where the every day experiences built mutual trust, and in Tai Chi we sense a father’s ‘teaching’ [I wouldn’t want to overstate] that had/has an impact,
‘As with any battle, you remind me,
come from within.’
There is a narrative line to this collection and in these first poems the father/daughter relationship is conveyed through childhood references to school and riding bikes, and in Risk, a warning about boys, but also in Spell an evocation of how this past is so much a part of the converted present,
‘I was drawn by these things in my youth, he confesses.
How old are you now? I ask.
I’m as light as the air that you breathe, he replies.’
and the continued sharing offered in that last line is again sweetly tender.
The poem Morse sends its clever signal about a father communicating from another place, no longer the morse code of the past, but
‘Now I’m converted into pure medium’
and for pure beauty there is the expression of the change that obviously exists between the then and now – despite the time-capsule of these poetic shares – in the poem Light.
I could write about each poem to revel in the pleasure of my reading, but the task here is to enthuse and entice. I will, however, mention the final two poems in this narrative thread.
Names addresses the father’s dying and final wishes, and in ‘the bedroom with its pool-blue walls’ where Law and her father are together there is more fine poetry to express fondness and purpose way beyond the maudlin. In the final poem Skye ‘When you were in the hospice’, the poet creates a detail to convert the storytelling into an imaginary moment, and the unknown merges with the experienced and it is made memorable.
Broken Sleep Books is a newish press run by founder Aaron Kent and associate editor Charlie Bayliss. They have a fine current and emerging list of publications presented simply as attractive but unadorned chapbooks that focus on the work inside. For more details about Sarah Law’s My Converted Father and to buy, go here.