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Elastic Glue, Kathy Pimlott

The Emma Press, 2019      £6.50

Being ‘listy’

In her long-lined poem ‘A Visit to the Master of Space and Light’ — one of those expansively-written poems that have to be printed sideways — Kathy Pimlott ranges through the rooms in ‘the complicated houses of Sir John Soane’. Looking at his ‘stuff’, his playfulness with light, she finds that despite differences they have one thing in common:

I can barely prise the plastic bung from a piggybank

and most of the stuff in my house

                                                   isn’t actually mine.

                                        But we’re both listy, both suckers
for an accumulation of resonant fragments, cunning references

Exactly! Just as Soane created a glorious collection of ‘sarcophagi, casts, acanthus bosses, crocodiles, brass taps’ in Lincolns’ Inn Fields, so Pimlott collects the sounds, people, smells, pavements of Seven Dials in all their rich texture. She crams them into ‘Going to the Algerian Coffee Store: 500g Esotico’ — the other long-lined sideways-printed poem in this pamphlet — which at one level is simply an account of the two possible routes to the store but at another level is the teeming, throbbing, discordant, densely layered life of central London.

After the bin lorry has exhausted its beautifully modulated warnings,
after the glass lorry has shifted shingle, I step out into West StreetThe jacket is blue and white, with the main title of the book in large black caps, in a handwriting style. There is a picture of a village, with the central square and an obelisk with steps. Then three end of row house fronts and the row of houses stretching away behind them. Very pretty. Below the large title, which nearly fills the width of the cover about two inches form the top (in the sky on the picture) there are smaller words in blue, much smaller. They read Poems by Kathy PImlott, lower case.

and the dog-end of last night, where a sweeper leans on his cart
and chats with his own country

With noises so familiar we barely register them in real life Pimlott places the reader in her world, along side her, precisely but lightly. Having tuned us in via shared aural memory she’s then free to itemise details, what’s there — and what’s not. What’s absent contributes just as much as what’s present —

no loitering snappers, no witless number plates outside The Ivy yet,
just yellow drums of spent oils and bags of yesterday’s fancy breads

awaiting their special collections under the heritage lamppost.

Luxury and poverty sit side by side, as do waste and need. The list goes on — but you’ll have to buy the pamphlet to find out how good ‘listy’ can get.

D. A. Prince

If you’ve always wanted an allotment but live in a city and your parents didn’t put your name on the waiting list within a week of your birth; or if you like the idea of fresh produce but aren’t so keen on digging and weeding and the backache that usually accompanies such activities, Elastic Glue by Kathy Pimlott is the plot you need.

In the poem ‘Taxonomy’you’ll find yourself among all kinds of people including architects and lecturers, who

                         [...] plant Florence
fennel, blue potatoes, then disappear
all summer to eat ratatouille in Provence.

For many years I had an allotment and felt like a novice Jedi being tutored by my allotment Yoda, John King (All Hail to his patience and wisdom), who — just for the record — had been tending his plot since the whole nation was encouraged to dig for victory. JK is alive and digging in ‘Taxonomy’; he is one of the very old, who

dig in relegated suits. They like a bonfire,
Bordeaux Mixture. They clean their tools
and forge a kinship with the Hippy via
a shared contempt for other people’s rules.

Just seeing the words ‘Bordeaux Mixture’ conjures the smell of JK’s Moneymaker tomatoes. And it could be JK speaking when the narrator of ‘Taxonomy’ says of ‘the Hippy’, that he’s

Surprisingly touchy for a Buddhist and a vegan,
he bangs on and on about how he should be Head
or, at very least, Treasurer of the Association.

Of course, JK had no time for the Association. He was too busy either growing stuff or doing battle. He strides, through ‘Remedies against Enemies’, with his instructions: ‘spray / by means of a syringe with arsenate / of lead, tar oil, slaked sulphur flowers’ and

Drop in a lump of potassium cyanide,
walnut sized, then, carefully some water.
Seal with turf. Retire without loss of time.

A man with not much time for poetry, JK’s only gripe would have been with ‘Taxonomy’s closing assertion that ‘Everyone likes cake’.

Like cake Yoda not.

Sue Butler