Black Mascara (Waterproof), Rosalind Easton
Smith/Doorstop, 2021 £6.00
A moving experience
Rosalind Easton is a relatively new voice, but she is off the blocks like the proverbial rocket. A rocket with the booster of winning a Poetry Business competition, and deservedly so.
The rocket image also holds because from the start this pamphlet is constantly moving or changing. The reincarnation of a grandmother as a book is dealt with in a surreal whistle-stop tour, the couplets covering drinking games with Shakespeare, Evelyn Waugh as a book salesperson on Hatchards, and the TV sofas of Parkinson and Wogan — all these speed past, among many other experiences. You need to read this yourself to get the magic.
Elsewhere, movement is more palpable, for example in the bicycle-based poems, ‘Campagnolo Super Record’, ‘Girl as Bike’ and the Adrian-Henri-like Tonight-At-Noon-ish switcheroo of ‘Did I Dent Your Car with My Head’ where
On the hottest day of the year, news breaks
of the first roundabout to give priority to cyclists.
This is just the beginning. As the week goes on
politicians grip lecterns, lean into microphones
to laud hard-working couples without children.
In ‘The Light Museum’, we literally move at the speed of light. With disorientating impact, the poem discusses moments of light as available for purchase in ‘small vials […] from the gift shop, / priced at one year of your left life’ (the disorientation is amplified in that switch of ‘left ‘and ‘life’).
The kinetic energy almost literally never stops building, but my final (and possibly favourite example) is in ‘Drinks Party, London Skyline’ where the buildings on the aforementioned skyline have been up all night drinking:
still drunk, still high, they all swap places to confuse
the passing commuters. How they giggle, delighted with their wheeze.
It’s a joyous and playful approach to the idea of skyline, enhanced by the glorious pun of ‘still high’.
Altogether, this pamphlet is a tour de force — full of surprises, wonderful subject matter and stunning language.