Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Rapture, Mark CarsonJacket of very tall long thin pamphlet. Title, Rapture, in black lower case about two inches down from the top. Below that a black drawing of a hawk hovering. About two and a half inches below that the author's name, centred, black italics, a little smaller than the title. The background colour is grey.

2nd edition 2015

When shape, and poem fuse

Pamphlets can be any size. They refuse to suit their ways to bookcases – and quite right too. Rapture is a lovely example of exploiting shape to suit content. It is long and thin: A4 folded in half lengthways. It features a hovering bird of prey on the cover – a raptor – and all the poems inside are about such birds: a merlin, a peregrine falcon, a sparrow hawk, a tawny owl, a black kite, a griffin vulture, and a hen harrier.

The poems suit the shape well. They work on short lines, with a sentence structure that often threads itself across many line breaks and builds speed as it goes, with fantastically dramatic effect. Here are the last thirteen lines of the opening poem, ‘Under the Radar’, which features a merlin on the trail of a female swallow:

Perfect! Drop below roofline,
scribe a long circle
picking up speed
through the five-bar gate
under the radar
at the last second
lovely lady
alive to danger
leaps in the air –
I stall heraldically
(ermine breast displayed
talons symmetrical)
and take her, take her so swiftly.

Most of the poems, like this example, take the bird’s eye viewpoint. The reader occupies that perfectly poised, calculating space of the expert hunter, and sometimes it is a little scary, and sometimes funny, and sometimes just a delight. You are never quite sure where you’re going but suddenly you are diving at full speed towards the end of the poem.

I’ll end with one more example, really because I want to share the joy. Picture a hotel, southern Europe, somewhere hot. The black kite, in ‘Snatch’ has one eye on ‘the expats by the poolside’, one of which has a meat-filled baguette in one hand:

She picks it up and uses it
to emphasise a point
of particular importance
as I swoop through between them
on a kamikaze trajectory
tip feathers flustering
like a duvet in a jetstream
and her gesture is aborted
and her sandwich is truncated
and the meat is Corn-fed Turkey
and the sauce is American Cranberry
and it tastes utterly sumptous
as I perch on the perimeter trellis
a gourmet raptor in the bougainvillea.

Helena Nelson 

Available from the author at
Plumpton Hall, Ulverstone, Cumbria LA12 7QN