Flarestack Poetry, 2006 — £3.00
I was quite uninspired by the man scratching his balls on the fish dock, the haemorrhoidal bunches of fruit and the cows’ new shit steaming in dawn fog at the beginning of Ian Pople’s pamhlet. A good thing I persevered or the loss would have been totally mine.
For me, the poems just got better and better. I especially liked the longer ones and the sequences where Pople’s astute observations are conveyed with real confidence. In ‘Open Workings’, for example, he captures, in simple language, a heron rising against the night sky:
and lightning strikes the other shore
as if it had been one of the first
photographs and the print, quite new
and yet not clear, the picture
not as good as the mirror.
While many of the poems involve light, sky and landscape, Pople portrays people with great clarity too. In ‘Booth Hall Children’s Hospital’ “The women in the parents’ room wore fluffy mules,/ quilted dressing gowns, black eyeliner// and were mostly bleached blonde. They ordered pizza/ into the small hours and wouldn’t stop smoking.” This poem (and the pamphlet as a whole) is dedicated to Ben Pople, who also did the front cover drawing. A cave-art style deer stares from the plum background, Giacometti-thin. Its huge eyes are steely, like Little My’s in Tove Jansson’s wonderful, eerie Moonintroll books.
Arnold Bennett, after reading War and Peace, raved about the “superbly rendered domesticity”, a phrase that applies perfectly here. Of all the poems in this collection, my favourite was ‘The Contours of Again’—about a man laying and lighting a fire. All through it is ‘he’ until, without warning, it is ‘we’ who
[…] watched the pale grey wisp against the soot
As the wood took fire along its splinters.
As the clocks went back, I joined them, held out my hands; felt warm.