HappenStance 2008 £4.00
With its elegant black on textured-white cover, green flyleaf and creamy pages, From the Body of the Green Girl is kind to the eye and lovely to hold. It is a lot for the poetry to live up to, but thankfully it does … and then some. In the first poem, ‘Elegy for Ben’,
The animals come to him, and they converse
with no words.
The fox comes to him, and Ben inhabits
the language of lean, muscle,
the narrow muzzle that translates complexities
of scent: water mint and meadowsweet…
Throughout this pamphlet Paula Jennings mixes a speech-cadence lightness of language with the language of lean muscle; sonorous and strong but undeniably feminine.
For me, she doesn’t always get the balance absolutely right, as in ‘Seabird, What has Death left in Your Belly’ or ‘At the Day Centre’. In this sequence of portraits ‘Bruce’ and ‘Malcolm’ are brought vividly to life, while poor ‘Alison’, whose
vowels are beads of coloured glass—
i: a bugle of indigo o: a pearl
for me, would have been better left with the glorious line:
I thread these sounds for you sometimes
But these poems are never predictable and never disappoint. Paula Jennings mixes ice, a wavering god and a helicopter; compares memory to a paratrooper; argues with the future and in ‘Night Road’, creates an image in the final line that comes back to me every time I get in the car. If I try to explain the poem is about a woman riding a deer away from a car accident, I’m just not going to do the poem justice. But it is, and “fresh from their recent deaths” they “outrun the siren and the lights”:
That other scene:
the bloody huddle in the road,
the cooling portrait in the windscreen.
The poem doesn’t describe the woman but I can see her clearly through the windscreen, bloody, unblinking. Or maybe the woman is me, staring out of that other life I could have lived? This is writing that makes me feel fragile, but very much alive.