Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

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Hare, heart (and time)

I like almost everything about this Mariscat pamphlet — the poems ‘of love, life and family with a Northumbrian flavour’ (as described on the back cover) but also how it’s drawn together.

Brent Millar’s hare from Heart and Hare provides a striking image for the front. The full image, reproduced on the back, shows the heart of its title and also the face of a timepiece, symbols of love and time.

‘Northumbrian’, the striking opening piece, has three parts. In the first, drystone wall imagery leads to a strong simile:

I want us to be like one of these walls —
nothing between us, no mortar or cement,
slotted in perfectly together, lichens
awarded us like rosettes.

Landscape is important throughout this three-part love poem. The hare in the second section is the one in the pamphlet’s title: ‘I helped you spot your first hare. / This fact seems important now’. (You need to read the whole poem to know why.)

That hare mingles with my own memory (of watching a hare run across a newly-mown hayfield in the depths of the Northumbrian countryside, past bales of hay, the sun beating down), and this makes me think about poems and readers — give us an image and we’ll run with it!

A final couplet draws the whole poem together, picking up on the earlier image of the ‘large blue barrels’, things being left unsaid that don’t need saying:

Our love fattens itself daily
unaware of greater schemes at play.

Past and present coincide in ‘The fork’ (a ‘sharp-pronged Georgian cutlery fork / with a tapered deer antler handle’). The deer ‘that never expected to be whittled to a hilt’ provides another link to the land, like the pheasant feeders in ‘Northumbrian’.

‘Circadian rhythms’, / after Donald Hall’ (someone I’ve missed, rather than lost along the way — another poet to explore) tells of a day filled with small, everyday things. It begins, ‘Most diaries would have had it blank, that day’, and ends, ‘It was one of the best days of my life’.

No wonder I keep returning to this pamphlet, finding new things to like, new favourites.

Enid Lee