Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

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A glazed orange image with white lettering out of itWhat love would smell like, by SK Grout

V. Press, 2021     £6.50

In the moment

We are treated by the poems in this pamphlet to a most innovative and particular depiction of the poet’s love for her girlfriend. The sequence deals with the heightened ups and downs as the couple becomes established.

Each poem invents its own form with the result that the poems are very fresh. They jump off the page. SK Grout does a wonderful job with this and what I enjoyed most was her ability to hold us in the moment.

In ’half past nine’ the poet exactly captures what it is like to wait for an adored person. She is on ‘suburbia’s corner, gum-streaked pavement’ and then:

              I draw the word  f r i e n d  into the air
with an index finger. slightly sweaty, no audience

I felt the impact of this small act as if I was there and even more so as this poem ends:

[look, she’s coming]

the shimmer of battle just outside the gaze,
but there, nevertheless.

The word ‘battle’ I take not to mean ‘fight’, more a potent encounter, the lines ring with the thrill of that split second certainty that a rendezvous really will happen.

The poem ‘Two girls peeling apples’ brings to my mind Seamus Heaney’s ‘When all the others were away at Mass’. The scene unfolds gently: it is ‘5.47PM’ and ‘The first of the evening’s / moths welcome-dance against the porch light’. There is a moment between the lovers where little is said but much is experienced:

Who would build heaven, when this space exists?
[…]
You nod at the right places without really listening,
[…]                   
                         content in the knowledge
that you will hear it again, receiving my touch,
returning it with promise. 

Such moments are fleeting but once captured, of course, can be relived.

The penultimate poem ‘9.51 PM’ takes us back to the meeting outlined in the poem ‘half past nine’ — it is now 21 minutes later. Every minute weighs! It leaves us with an equally vivid impression of a small intimate moment:

I take your hand                     skate the skin of
your middle finger with my
blunt nail

Anne Bailey