Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

It was and it wasn’t, Gina WilsonThe cover is a very dark bluey-green. All text is blackj. The title is in large, rather elegant, caps, with the 'and' slightly smaller than the rest, so it reads IT WAS and / IT WASN'T. Below this in a tiny italic lower case the word Poems. The author's name is centred about half way down the jacket in fairly small caps. At the bottom, centred, with Mariscat logo, which is a sideways cat, slightly archaic in design and very dignified.

Mariscat Press, 2017   £6.00

How to arrest your reader

One thing that interests me in Gina Wilson’s technique is the short sentence that drops in at regular intervals, interrupting enjambments, fitting inside a line. It’s fascinating what it does to tone and internal echoes. Such statements often have a powerfully arresting effect, even when they’re also understatements.

The first and most obvious example is in the title poem ‘Treasure’, the last three and a half lines of which are:

[ ... ]                    Funny how people
can’t quite bury a treasure. My brother
dug up our dead rabbit by torchlight
to see if it was safe. It was and it wasn’t.

Really you need the entire poem (it is only ten lines in all) to see how profoundly that final half-line statement is ‘earned’ and how potently it resounds through this entire pamphlet – a marvellous title poem. And she does it elsewhere. Again, to demonstrate the full effect, I would need to discuss the poem as a whole, but ‘Piano Practice’ on the facing page concludes (a whole line unit) ‘He has me to thank for that.’

It seems to me that this technique (not that widely practised, poets these days being more inclined to sweeping enjambments) is particularly well handled here. The effect of such a strong pause inside the unit of a line is to interrupt any possible metrical regularity. If you had been snoozing pleasantly, it would wake you up. The full stops act as little shocks, creating a sharp space for thought. (Adjectives are rare. She doesn’t need them, and knows it.)

The most dramatic example of the technique, perhaps, is in ‘Don’t talk to me of snow’, which employs rhetorical repetition in each stanza and finally culminates in an outcry of grief in the last three words – a complete sentence, half a line, couldn’t be simpler: ‘Give me mother.’

In no fewer than eleven of the poems in this pamphlet, Gina Wilson places a complete sentence inside the last line.

There is something to be learned here. It works for her. It really does.

Helena Nelson