If we prod things, they are likely to reveal themselves. That is perhaps why there are Do Not Touch signs in museums: come and see the secrets; they are ours to keep mysterious.
And that is fine. Or we can be inquisitive people who prod and maybe, if lucky, reveal; or better still, read poets who have prodded anywhere to intensely expose. For example – would you want to poke around in the detritus of a bagless cylinder vacuum’s inbuilt receptacle? Terry has, and in the poem of that domestic appliance’s name, she has discovered all kinds of captures as varied from ‘gut of human skin or hosiery space devoid of matter’ to ‘six loose teeth’. Now there’s a home that needed cleaning. More importantly, there’s an observation of the collected which is full of dark implications. Revealed? Keep prodding.
Terry does. In another prose poem, Cubist Portrait of a Three-Faced Doll, the revelations here are in symbiotic sequencing with the artistic genre referenced, but more precisely are unpicked bit by bit in a language and juxtaposition that is both beautiful and horrible, a cross between a romantic response to a doll’s symbolic life and then its performance in an exorcism,
‘…oh the weeping pity the pretty
‘…gurgling baby is
a monstrous little thing’
This is how and why you prod to get beneath the surface of appearance and expectation. It is yin yang, an amalgam where the poet in an unpunctuated, intense observation reveals the collective ‘pretty monstrous thing’.
In Dream House we are walked through rooms with this continuing sense of variable conditions observed [continuous construction], from the readily familiar
‘where black mould eats
orange matt emulsion’
to, again, those closely observed awarenesses of more nuanced combinations of detail
‘and do not use her flannel
for fear of smelling lavender’
this latter not necessarily not familiar, but including the olfactory and a warning.
In another prose poem [I do particularly like these], The Other Side of the Apple, the prodding/probing is an incantation of the physical and emblematic observations, a succession of warnings [again] ‘do not’ to propel the sense of danger that exists anywhere and everywhere on the other sides of discovery.
Yes, let the poet do this for us.
Though I focus on the prose poems, this is a collection that does genuinely and engagingly vary its forms, exercising a control over the uncontrollable. One of these patterns is the ‘Catalogue Item’ sequencing, just as we would find in a museum, each revealing something, like the behaviour of a ‘chatter telephone’ or, ironically, what a ‘silver bell cannot know’.
I’ll finish this review impression on the final prose poem in this brisk but absorbing collection, Evergreen Crematorium. This too is incantatory – a stream of consciousness that reminds me at times of Samuel Beckett’s Lessness in the way repetition is used to layer and consolidate the describing, here of a looming darkness to the observed but within which the occasional lyricism is then illuminated,
‘…white cottage leaks
the breath it had been holding’
This is a fine set of poems, easy to read in one sitting where imprints build and resonate as a whole – the lost having been found; though what is broken, clearly observed/absorbed, must remain so. It is a museum I will visit again, picking my way through new pieces.
Get it here.