Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Barry Fentiman Hall – ‘the unbearable sheerness of being, An Island MiscellanyA textured cream card cover, with print and image in black. The title is large lower case font and the words get bigger as they go along so that BEING is very big. Then an image of a girl with long hair, stretching voluptuously. She has bare (but not erotic) breasts and a cloth swaddling her nether regions. She may be emerging from a conch, or possibly standing behind a rock. A black oblong bar beneath has the following in white caps: AN ISLAND MISCELLANY BY BFH. Over the peak of the cap A in ISLAND, there is a dot, so it gives a slightly Swedish impression.
www.wordsmithery.info, 2016   £5.00 + £1.50 postage

The poet’s intended (reader)

I started at the front, then flipped to the back.

Page 2: a picture of the sea with three dilapidated posts sticking out: each with a text label: OTHER, KENT and ESSEX. Opposite this, a poem in prosy long lines: ‘A tidal surge of swaling foulness sweeping in from the Smoke … / Mama Thames is daughter of the sea’

At the back an 11-page prose narrative begins ‘It is said that poets feel the pull of the ground in a keener way than other souls. [ …] They burn bright and burn fast. And this poet felt the fire in his veins so very fierce tonight, his heart fed through ribbons of magnesium.’

I didn’t really know what I’d got hold of, or or what was in it for me. I’m in Scotland. I'm a girl. I don’t empathise with ‘fire in his veins’ (or hers, come to that).

But further information on the website (though mysteriously, not in the pamphlet) helped me with context and allowed me a way in:

Thirteen poems and one story all inspired by the Isle of Sheppey. From scorpions, and teenagers, to an escaped dog and an encounter with a timeless entity, follow in BFH's fantastical footsteps as he travels round the island, observing and imagining, and make sure you beware the Big Bad... 

I’m still thinking, though, about intended readers. This pamphlet made me realise that I usually think the intended reader is me, though not always, and when I feel it’s not me, there’s a bit of a problem. I have a not very robust theory that the poems I like best seem somehow to be about me, even when they’re not. When I reached ‘Against the clock’, though, I felt it could be mine:

We are the zero hours,
The significant others,
The sanctioned,
The signers,
The kept lady diners.

There’s more. I warmed to this one because I felt it was for me and about me and there was space for me to get inside the lines and be moved. Which I was.

Helena Nelson