Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

green cover with white lettering and faint background pattern 'whispering' the press nameIf Moments Were Places, Alicia Fernández

Half Moon Books, 2017  £6.00

Song-lyric simplicity

The day it ended
was the day she broke in
her first-ever pair
of Dr. Martens

starts the poem ‘Worth it’. The comparison is followed through: ‘she’ traverses the pain barrier — of the break-up, and the breaking-in — and arrives the other side. ‘She had made it through / and smiled.’

Most of the poems in this book are similarly open and uncomplicated, thanks (at least in part) to their plainness of language.

They also often deal with break-ups and heartache — the traditional preserve of the singer-songwriter — and make me think of the charm and straightforwardness of a Suzanne Vega lyric, say: ‘Even if I am in love with you / All this to say, what’s it to you?’ ‘Marlene on the Wall’.

Syntactically, too, Fernández’s poems don’t play tricks. One sentence follows another in easy sequence. Often, full stops are the only punctuation needed:

The Breakfast Show is blaring
‘These Days’ by Nico on Gold Radio.
Manchester sleeps.
(‘Brown house’)

Simple, plain language, simply and plainly punctuated. And lineated. Even when the work does require a bit more abstraction, it remains down to earth: ‘A room with jazz posters became a haven / for despair, records and wounded birds’, reads ’Palmetto State’, for instance. Or when it justifies further, longer explanation, it manages to do so, still, without fuss — this, again, from ‘Brown house’:

Next thing I know, a moth
is trying to clamber inside
my Trevi MB 741, and it does.

It toboggans down its four knobs
to sneak in through a gap
left by the modulation slider

This poet obviously loves her music — from the number of references to it. I think that song-lyric simplicity may also appeal: judging from the plain sincerity of her own work.

Charlotte Gann