Saturday, December 06, 2008

Last month I ordered two HappenStance chapbooks, both of which I have thoroughly enjoyed reading. I'm always amazed at the value for money that chapbooks provide.

Frances Corkey Thompson's chapbook, The Long Acre, offers 28 pages of poetry consisting of 22 poems all for a measly four quid. These poems are right up my street - largely set in nature, these poems are rhythmic, musical and otherworldly.

"air was glass. Trees
hardly dared to breathe. The buzzard hung high,
the hare and the shrew
hid." ('Beeches at Pickwell')

Thompson has a gift of stimulating many senses with a single image. In 'Snow-Melt':

"...I saw above me
all the crowds of pine yielding steam like horses"

I can not only see this but feel it and smell it also. At the end of the poem the narrator heads towards a river -

"...I kicked off my shoes and my plain
bare warm animal feet took me down into
what I could not have imagined"

This reminds me of Hughes in its tactile and earthy evocation. I like that the poem is left open at the end with its rather clever "what I could not have imagined", yet that is exactly what I am doing: imagining the scene and feeling it.

According to the bio on the back: Thompson is Irish, brought up in rural Ulster and 'a child of the manse'.
This provides an interesting background to the poem 'Fiat Deus':

"Surely there was a god for the frog that day
and for the way we laughed. Surely

there is a god for the rain...
...let there at least be a god for this god-awful

hammering of rain"

The repetition of "surely there is a god", like the hammering of the rain, and the proximity in the poem and in the sound of 'frog' and 'god' makes this a very interesting poem. In the last stanza the frog is invisible in contrast to the narrator's "visible / breath on the window". Deep and searching theological and philosophical issues are explored in a fresh and playful manner with hints of a darker side. The title, obviously the name of a well known car, means literally, from what I can work out, 'God's Law'.
These are clever poems without the appearance of being in an over-arching sense.

A strange other-worldliness comes into Thompson's poems through 'The Boy who Understands Light': about a boy who has a moon-face, who listens 'for the music of dust' and is a 'crow flapping on a black sky'; and 'Lough Neagh' where the Lough people, with their blackened faces, can read water and know when to die. The 'Lough People' is a sequence of three poems, the second of which the narrator is haunted by a white-bodied woman from the Lough:

"Like some forgotten foundling ghost
the white-bodied woman stoops and creeps
stirring my settled waters"

The poems ends with:

"I turn from her - we have no common talk.
When I look, she has slipped
back to the water."

Needless to say my favorite poems in the collection are the strongly nature-based ones though there are a variety of other poems such as 'Looking for My Mother in Marks & Spencers and Finding Her', which are no less admirable but not really to my taste.

3 comments:

swiss said...

it's such a relief to read a review where the reviewer reads the stuff they like and describes why they like it then, rather than being demeaning or rubbishing what they don't like (or god save us, crap criticism), easing away with the admission that it's not to their taste.

well done. there are many who could learn from your example

Sorlil said...

thanks swiss, there are certainly enough people out there knocking perfectly good poetry that's just not to their taste.

Roxana said...

I like all the lines you quoted, and also I see why you like them :-)

[thank you]