t/here, Kay Syrad
East Port, 2019 £12.00 + p&p
Scale and space
Syrad’s beautiful pamphlet t/here is an exquisite journey of scale and space: a journey of time and perception, flight and arrival, biology and metaphysics, imagination and fact. On this journey we are estranged from ourselves so as to see afresh and, however disturbing it is, to know anew.
The idea of journey is evoked with immense sensitivity from the outset: ‘the one rising…’ is to travel ‘in the light-space / between land and future’; the destination, ‘the cells of the soul’. Elsewhere, the scale of the journey of evolution is captured in the ‘finely calibrated’ curlew’s beak. And later, Syrad’s authoritative repetition of the word ‘dragonfly’ makes us tremble at the scale of a different journey. The dragonfly is ‘carried high’ through wind and rain. Then, with poetic daring, Syrad gives the single word ‘dragonfly’ a whole page. At risk in our ecologically threatened world, here dragonfly is hallowed and haloed by white.
In another poem, we tremble at disturbing juxtapositions. As we contemplate how eels ‘drift for a year / in a warm current,’ how they have ‘eyes large for the dim ocean,’ we are troubled by a compelling comparison. A ‘fat-tails’ phenomenon describes an event, unlikely as it might be (irony here perhaps?), that has ‘catastrophic consequences’. With careful juxtaposition and textual layering, Syrad makes us see how such an event applies both to the increasingly ‘few’ eels and, with arresting understatement but magnified scale, to war-ravaged Syria.
Space is stark for the cockle-pickers who died at Morecambe Bay. That literal and conscience-probing title — t/here — is nowhere more evident than in the emptiness in the brackets which follows the opening word, ’they’. The pronoun distances us at first, keeps us quite literally ‘at bay’. But this ‘bay,’ this empty space, this white gap in our reading minds, is resoundingly filled by the end of the piece. We cannot fail to see the emptiness as form. Human form. Migrant workers who:
when they were
( ) rescued.
Here, white space which sanctified the dragonfly has been re-scaled for the unnamed dead.