Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

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Somewhere Far, Joe Carrick-VartyThe A5 cover is a fairly bright yellow, and essentially plain though it has a watermark you can just read saying NEW POETS PRIZE. The title is centred at the bottom in small bold black caps (sans serif). Above this the author's name, much smaller, appears in white, but in fact from any distance the black pamphlet title is all you would be able to see.

Smith | Doorstop, 2019    £5.00

The difference between small and far away

Distance and separation are rife in this collection. For example, there’s the abandoned bicycle with ‘spokes and chain // grown through, tangled, leant by itself’ in ‘Your Bicycle’. Then there’s the lost hat and gloves ‘hard with frost on the spade handle’ in ‘Eagle River, 2017’. Most pervasively of all, there’s the poet’s separation from his father.

Even when the two are accompanying one another, physical and emotional distance soon makes itself felt, as in the title poem where the father (while bringing his son back from nursery) pops into the betting shop with an aside of

You wait out here now and then a pen,
one of those little blue ones,
draw me something nice,
betting slips, twenty of them.

The separation is equally vivid in ‘A week and not a word since the argument’, where Carrick-Varty as a child is left outside the pub while his father drinks.

I’m seven years old, waiting with a Coke outside
the frosted glass of The Seven Stars,
smelling cigarettes every time the door bangs.

In the absence of father-son closeness, the young poet seems to have bonded with his father’s acquaintances, such as the ‘Men passing on the step’ in the title poem, and particularly Ross in ‘Ross 154’, the old man who used to sit in the corner of a waterhole favoured by Carrick-Varty’s father. ‘Ross 154’ takes its title from a constellation too faint to be seen by the naked eye. The poem concludes with the poet now an adult and back in the same pub. This time Ross is ordering a pint of Guinness that ‘settles to starless while I pay’ — a wonderful image.

Somewhere Far deals with distance by looking at things up close. There’s a scene in Father Ted where Ted is attempting to teach Father Dougal the difference between small and far away using toy cows. If this pamphlet had been around at the time, Ted might have been better using it as his teaching aid.

Mat Riches