Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Angels And Other Diptera, Lizzi ThistlethwayteCover of pamphlet. Dead plain, and pale blue, with title in block caps, very large, occupying about a third of the space towards the right hand side of the lower two thirds. The word ANGELS is separated by a double spaced interval from the rest of the title.

Water Flag Press, 2015   

Poems as songs

In this beautifully produced publication, which is an aesthetic statement as much as a collection of verse, what caught my attention was the recurrent references to song. Poets do, of course, use ‘song’ as a way of referring to whatever it is they do, though poems can be more or less song-like.

‘Healing Water’, a set of short texts divided by little dashes, subtitles itself (in brackets) ‘six songs’. There are some lovely images here, one of which certainly depicts a singer:

a warbler
a solitary
balancing a song on every reed a thousand thousand reeds

The language here, though, doesn’t strike me as strongly song-like, so much as strongly suggestive – almost a flood of words swelling to a surge. The last line of the four above illustrates the sort of flooding effect I mean. Here’s another example from the title poem:

To know it starting up I put my mouth to fetch a song the wind blows clean away
its abstract wanting far above the towered edge-lit cloud-heaps wild and all things
taller than I or us or our rocking song-fled children, our flighted things   

In ‘Full Moon at Snape’ (another vividly visual poem) I feel a lyric movement in the lines:

I need a song tonight
to hitch a lift on the moon’s yolk-full belly


a land of reeds
a moon’s yolk belly, the tidal suck and flood
of unsettlings

Elsewhere, I don’t feel ‘lovesong’ is especially lyrical, though it has some lovely phrasing, echoing between the double spaced lines – ‘the beginning stars / on the alder’ and ‘the creak / of lit things’.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter in the least whether something you call a ‘song’ is song-like as such. Perhaps it’s more interesting, indeed, if it isn’t. Some fascinating things going on here, of which this is only one.

Helena Nelson

[copies available from the author at The Water Flag Press Downs Farm