The longmonth of rumours of lights, Tom Sharp
Tom Sharp, 2020 £8.00
The temptations of titles and the smells of the contents
I see the titles of collections (and individual poems) as a cross between signposts and marketing pitches. So I approach them with a mixture of curiosity and caution.
The Longmonth of Rumours of Lights intrigued and tempted me in equal measure.
I discovered there are many different qualities of light, explicitly and implicitly, present in these poems. But what intrigued and captured my attention just as forcefully were the smells.
The collection opens with ‘Station’, and the smell specifically of Lichfield station and the place where a young British shoulder was shot and killed in 1990 by an unnamed enemy.
In ‘Birds at the Zoo’, a cacophony of smells surround
The furious music of birds at the Zoo,
aviary echo, you’d think they were happy
in their echo of their old real world
set up in our real world as a prelude
to the bang glass gameshow of monkeys.
In ‘Tea time chiaroscuro’, there’s the smell of Gitanes, and children eating chips
sitting in nylon school uniform
and the blaze of bulb light
with pink cordial, bread and butter
and a 5pm sense of what comes later.
In ‘The light and I wait for you’, of course light is a central image, but I also smell the turpentine:
I’m a painting by Vanessa bell. Light loses its pose,
passing like gossip from the turpentine energy
of a new afternoon to the wrinkle of quarter past three,
then out into that smudging evening maybe.
Returning to titles though — although it has nothing to do with light or scent — I love the double use of ‘grand’ in the poem titled ‘My Grandmother lived grandly on very little money’. Here the smell of toast filled my head as the narrator reveals that
Sometimes we’d go to the Morris-tiled
Tea Room of Birmingham City Museum
for white stacks of buttered toast after
grimacing at Egyptian mummies.
Meanwhile, in another museum (featured in the poem titled ‘Egg’):
Here come old men
to unfold new moans
like handkerchiefs for salting
picnic pickled eggs on.
I leave the scents associated with such delicacies to your imagination.