This is the best collection of bereavement and loss I have read for a long time: a wife, a father, friends, a one-off glimpse, a moment. It is like a well smoked ham providing the consumer with all the flavour and yet sparing them the eye-watering smoke. This is the residue skilfully preserved by a poet who knows his craft. I was little surprised to learn that some of these poems are competition winners.
We are shown how life goes on. And yet, how people are recalled in an unexpected glimpse, a shawl, a thought surfacing. It is an internal world of triggered memories and contemplations that challenge how we see things. For example, But who are you when there is a sunflower?
Portrait of a Portrait of My Wife explores the interplay between now-deceased wife, the drawer (a former boyfriend), the husband (now viewer) and that intangible something that hols all things together.
The planes of her face, the movement of his hand
(Two masters always, the drawn and the drawer)
A spot of light – hers? his? Difficult to tell with portraits –
Just outside the frame.
The poise of the hand – hers to this day.
The stroke of the hand – his that day.
The eye of the viewer – mine, not yet twisted away today.
And a spot of light just outside the frame, where
Poise, hand, eye coincide.
The poems have a well rounded feel about them. There are moments of wit:
. . . she did not chose to be old,
but she could chose a hat,
And moments of linguistic playfulness
A landscape sheeped with dots
Verb in a pinafore
A lass this side of loss
Our world, less or more.
There are evocative moments
You turned a corner inside the little rowboat
and burst into a million colours.
I thought we were on a fishing trip . . . .