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Sleeping Through, Faith LawrenceThe cover is white, with a band of monochrome photograph in the bottom thiurd. This shows a busy scene in the open air that includes a large dog and some semi-clad humans. One of the people might be pretending to be a dog. The title is centred lower case black in the very middle of the pamphelt. Below it the author's name in small blue sans serif caps. A line about an inch from the top is interrupted by blue caps for Laureates Choice and below this in small black lower case 'chosen by Carol Ann Duffy'.

Smith | Doorstep, 2019    £7.50

The Casual Pun

It’s easy to miss the wordplay in Faith Lawrence’s subtly-crafted short poems. There’s a slipperiness to the imagery and a simplicity here which lulls one into being forgetful of mechanics. However, it’s worth taking time to notice the careful diction: double meaning adds to the enjoyment.

The word 'blue’ in ‘Futures’, for example, operates to add another layer:

It was blue weather on the island
for both of us that day

At first glance, this is a poem of ideal holiday imagery where there are ‘no phones’, and ‘we were listening to the birds’, but this is quietly undercut by a sense of the temporal, and by ‘our small hopes’ and the future only being ‘provisional’. The ‘blue weather’, then, may not just be literal, but also psychological in the sense of feeling sad. This turns the reading of the poem so that the ideal now looks like a more complex human experience of being abroad.

Sleeping Through is divided into five sections, and includes two sequences. The first of these, 'Flowering', has some of the shortest pieces, and these brief meditations are some of the most engaging in the pamphlet. This is at least in part due to the casual wordplay. The eighth poem, ‘Pod’, in 'Flowering' reads:

Milk and seeds
ready for time-travel
our dark capsule.

Again, Lawrence contemplates time, here with the play on the words ‘Pod’ and ‘capsule’, both of which can mean time-travel devices while simultaneously referring to the outer layer of a seed. The wordplay makes an unusual connection between rural, earthly nature and time-travel. It also links the poem to the title of the sequence, expanding on the idea of flowering to include human destiny.

There are many other short, thought-provoking poems here to contemplate. In our advertising-saturated society where we’re used to intrusive wordplay, it’s good to find poetry which doesn’t scream cleverness, but employs wordplay in a subtle fashion, changing the reader’s viewpoint, and adding depth to the reading.

Nell Prince

 

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