Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

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A strong impression

I enjoyed the poems in this pamphlet for the apparently simple way they conjure up scenes and memories. In ‘At the Station’ the poet’s father walks straight off the page towards us, we smell him as he gets nearer:

And here’s my father, the sweet
cattle-cake scents of cumin
and fennel on his working clothes,
coming to meet me.

In ‘Leveret’ the poet hears a tractor and imagines the dead animal

burst open under the high roaring wheel
I shoe it into the long grass, seeing it now
as itself, this hare, four inches long.

But it is the title poem I keep coming back to. The ‘Grass Boat’ is itself an impression in the field:

Then we’re almost home, lingering
in the unmown field behind the house,


Breathing seeds and  stems, I see
we’ve made an outline in the grass,
the space a little rowing boat would fill.

All four of us can comfortably
lie between its sides, summer’s
dry sea waving above our heads.

This image is so well drawn I feel as if I know exactly what the ‘dry sea’ is like. I can smell it and feel the spiky bits of grass sticking into me way back in one of my own childhood spaces, but there is a lot more than that here. The poet acknowledges the temporary nature of the grass boat but is not afraid to leave it behind because:

a thing can both exist and not exist;
I understand I have created for myself
this boat, and that I’m sailing in it.

Suddenly the scene is a state of mind, a metaphor for the poet’s subsequent journey through life. I think each reader will create their own ‘grass boat’. To me it says: fragility, vulnerability and bravery, something which might or might not exist until it comes to mind or is captured in a poem.

The epigraph to the pamphlet is by Helen Tookey: ‘writing......is like trying to catch a fish that doesn’t actually exist until you’ve caught it.’

Anne Bailey