Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Safety Behaviour, Emma Jeremy

Smith|Doorstep Books 2019  £5.00

Stepping into the surreal

Emma Jeremy’s pamphlet Safety Behaviour is full of bizarre scenarios. She specialises in using her first lines and also titles to draw us into the surreal. The initial poem in the pamphlet, ‘Safety Behaviour’, opens with:

The thoughts, I’ve been told, to put somewhere else.

This line immediately sets up a challenge. The poet then suggests strange places where thoughts might be lodged: ‘on the roof’, posting them ‘in a box’, ‘in shoes’, ‘inside a stranger’s pocket’.

In ‘Milk’, her first line sets up the offbeat tone of the poem with an intriguing statement:

It was easy not to like him, because of the milk.

She quickly moves to an image of milk bleeding ‘from every pore’. She uses the extended metaphor of milk to suggest difference and shows, with the building of a relationship, that the difference has disappeared. The characters end up sitting together with ‘milk pooled around [their] feet’.

Jeremy’s first lines often run on from the title of a poem e.g. ‘This time the bird’ continues ‘was down my shirt’. We are then pitched into the strange image of a bird escaping everyday clothing. The first line creates a sense of intimacy but also discomfort which increases as the poem develops.

In the prose poem ‘In the Mouth of Something’, she suggests a world slightly out of kilter starting with houses which ‘lean forwards slightly’ and then odd behaviours by cats, TVs and ovens.

I particularly enjoyed the poem ‘There’s Something I Want to Get Off Me’. The title is somewhat disturbing. Although the subject is mundane, the poem is extraordinary, almost hypnotic in the way it describes cutting a ‘weird’ onion.

Emma Jeremy really does take our thoughts in very different directions.

Sue Wallace-Shaddad