Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Tara Browne (1945-1966), Hugo Williams

Greville Press Pamphlets, 2018      £7.50

ISBN 978 0 9552432 88
Available from The Greville Press, 6 Mellors Court,
The Butts, Warwick CV34 4ST 

Uncertainty and beginnings 

This collection follows some familiar Hugo Williams tropes — references to his parents, boarding school and travel, etc. However, there are three poems that truly stand out because they step outside the Williams norm and look at a state of uncertainty and beginnings.

In ‘The Conductor Raises His Arms’ our protagonist is looking out of the window as a day starts:

A crackle of expectation
a silence of suspense
as the needle touches down on the day,


The sun’s brass section begins
with a fanfare of gold
as the main theme is introduced.

However, the flip side of this positivity is never far away. Later in the same poem, we hear about the ‘shadow orchestra’ and ‘The grey drone of the lawn’. It can’t just be a poem about beginnings: there has to be some darkness to mix with the light.

Now that the poet has a chance to look forward to the future (following a successful kidney transplant) it interests me that this publication should find him reflecting so much on the past. Perhaps because of (or it could be in spite of) the retrospection that follows the two opening poems, we come to a hard realisation as the pamphlet closes.

In ‘The Half-Open Door’, the poet confronts a need to do something — anything that will engage with the world outside the window through which he was looking at the start. Even a simple action like going outside is complicated by decisions about what to wear, how to move through the rain. The final lines should act as a rallying call for us all:

Getting ready to go out,
time passes quickly.
Suddenly it’s too late.

Mat Riches