All the Hauntings,Tom Sharp
Limited edition, 2018 £9.50
Ghosts of ourselves
Are all houses haunted? Not by paranormal activity, but by the traces of ourselves that we leave behind?
Tom Sharp’s All The Hauntings is a journey through the poet’s house and the lives imprinted within its walls. Paranoid and nostalgic, it’s an unsettled space — a world animated by moving or discarded objects (‘things forgotten’ or ‘fallen’) and characters that always seem to be (at least) two steps elsewhere, never quite there. A world of traces left by moving, dying bodies. ‘I carried all the homes / I’ve ever had to this home’ says the poet in his opening piece ‘And in this house’.
This is as much a journey into the poet’s mind as it is into a place. You could call it an embodied space, coloured by the traces of the bodies that travelled or travel through it — from William Blake’s ‘pressed face’ to a fledgling released to enjoy a taste of ‘purpling sky.’
Some of these traces are tender, delicate signs of intimacy:
mapped across grass:
hoops, balls, knuckled canes.
[‘What we find fallen’]
Others are sinister:
Dregs of danger,
in the teacup,
in the breadbin
[‘Everything is fine’]
These details become momentary still-lifes, remnants of play or tension or habit or discovery. But like the black strand that runs through the spine of the pamphlet, every trace of life contained within the poems is threaded with an inevitable transience. Though it weaves back and forth through the past and the present, the narrative can only pull in one direction — towards the declaration ‘I have seen my death’, and then the final poem, ‘When the fever broke’:
When the fever broke,
a piece of last night peeled away and floated here.
It found my head like a newborn’s cowl
or dew-sagged web.
In this concluding poem, we are left with a darkening chaos, as the walls close in around our narrator. We do not witness life outside this animated house, even when the inevitable comes to a head. The pamphlet’s world is contained within its moving walls, haunted by the life within.