Sunday, 11 April 2010

From The Boat

Myra Connell, Nine Arches Press, 2010, £5
Some poets have the knack of saying more and more the less they write, and Myra Connell seems to be one of those. Throughout this chapbook (at 40 pages, it's actually not that much shorter than many full collections), she hones poems right down to the quick - the more pared-down they got, the more I enjoyed them.

In part that's because Connell trusts the reader to do part of the work. You're constantly left with the feeling that you've come in halfway through a story or conversation, and the pleasure is in filling in some of the gaps yourself.

So, in opening poem And yes, the house, you're left wondering just who the stranger is, what the significance of the reported comment "the hope is stupid" might be. Moments like that crop up again and again, and they have the effect of giving a dream-like quality to the work, as if both you and the poet are slipping in and out of sleep.

I wouldn't want it to sound, though, as if the poet is taking the easy option of leading the reader out into the trackless wastes and then abandoning them. There are threads to follow, of mourning and of quiet persistence in the face of difficult and often baffling circumstances, and while Connell isn't afraid to be angry (really angry, too, not a mood I encounter that often in contemporary poetry), there's a tenderness there too.

And, importantly, there's a real gift for writing poetry that enacts our day-to-day thought processes in rhythms that genuinely delight. The whole of From The Valley, for example, with its closing:

Carp moved goldly,

muscled. Go today. See carp.
Go anywhere with walls, deep pools,
and gold (but don't say gold)
leaves floating


Old Map was another favourite, returning again to that theme of carrying on even when the way ahead is far from clear:

You (who do not give up)
must find a way across the stream:

steep up and climb the fence and there
- is still no path.

This is a fine collection that I'd like to think will find a wide readership - writing about uncertainty and dislocation with such assurance is a hard trick to pull off, but Myra Connell does it wonderfully well here.

No comments: