Santa Lucía, Charlie Baylis
Invisible Hand Press, 2021 £6.00
Romantic Mediterranean surrealism
Santa Lucía is a part of the southern Spanish city, Cartagena, that touches the Mediterranean Sea. In this evocative and multi-layered pamphlet, the poet expresses a strong sense of this place in a voice that combines romantic and surrealist imagery with existential and confessional tones.
Santa Lucía is also the poet’s state of mind, with ‘liberating canaries spreading panoramic green’ under ‘the peace of leaves’ (‘tropical storm’) as well as projections ‘of darkness onto darkness’ (‘mysterons’) blending with a sky that ‘is only blue because we’re locked in’ (‘chalcot square’).
The poet perceives the city as ‘an abstraction’ that is ‘no longer real’ (‘mysterons’), yet in Santa Lucía there is sometimes ‘an emptiness that goes on forever’(‘tropical storm’).
In ‘the stranger’, there are ‘looping mermaids on daytime television / chrome toads getting jiggy on the net’, but also ‘yellow saints who just don’t give a fuck /about finding an emotional balance’.
The significance of finding this balance is emphasized in ‘madonna’:
today offers a fraction of what won’t be returned tomorrow
the branches which held suicides are full of life
green & yellow leaves jangling in the sun
This pamphlet suggests that a sense of psychological harmony comes through loving ourselves ‘in the dark moments / when we need love the most’ (‘the museum on the edge of santa lucía’) — and by appreciating, in the right circumstances (‘she wore dior and we talked about the movies’), the value of connection with others:
balloons popping in dopamine clouds
causing ripples of gold
above our heads
And there is also the value and power of poetry. The pamphlet acknowledges by name several of its poetic influences — John Ashbery, Anne Sexton, Sean Bonney, and Sophie Robinson, to mention some examples. Although poetry is described in one poem as a ‘joke’ and a ‘wild eyed ponzi scheme’ (‘come as you are’), another poem (‘dystopia’) affirms that it can help in the quest for emotional balance:
at the centre of a roundabout is hope
philosophers gridlocked in philadelphia
eagles dropping bars of gold over opal mines