Two Left Boots, Veronica Caperon
Fisherrow, 2016 £5.00
What makes the best poems best
This is a friendly pamphlet, packed full of accessible, likeable poems. I thought all would work well in performance. The poet is clearly a person of character, and there’s lots of mischief and charm here.
I didn’t think all were equally strong on the page alone. A handful stood out for me as especially good, while the rest flowed over me pleasurably. I was interested in the difference between the ones that seemed to me pleasant (but essentially slight) and those I admired enough to revisit and savour.
I think what I like best is something to do with form. A few of the poems are expertly disciplined and have found precisely the right shape and sound for themselves. Others settle too easily (to my mind) for placing one phrase loosely under another, a progression of thoughts rather than a honed unity. But it is so hard to pin this down!
I particularly like ‘Provençal Spring’, though I would have preferred it in quatrains (not eight-line stanzas) and with a title that would emphasise its balladic approach. It is otherwise perfectly made: a simple, emotive elegy for two French brothers lost in the war.
‘Ladies of the Committee’ is equally good, for different reasons: two understated (but barbed) parallel stanzas, funny and clever.
The opening poem, ‘Lawkland’, operates on the simple principle of piling one detail on top of the next, in a repetitive sentence pattern:
It’s the ewe calling her lamb
and high-pitched reply,
it’s the faint smell of manure
hanging in the air
This pattern continues through 32 lines – with a minor but effective change of sentence pattern at the very end that works beautifully.
The final poem is a concrete piece: ‘At Home on World Aids Day’. Though the title is anything but auspicious, this is a fine example of form and shape re-enacting poignant meaning. Anybody can format lines into a shape. Few poets can do it in a way that startles the reader into unexpected vividness – as happens here.