Monboddo Press, 2007 - £6.00 www.scottish-pamphlet-poetry.com
To mangle a well-worn football cliché beyond all recognition, this is very much a chapbook of three thirds.
I found the opening section, ‘Descent’, a struggle. Pope is rarely short of good ideas, the best usually involving placing Classical myth and contemporary life side by side, but too often here they fall a bit flat. The language strains for effect just that bit too hard, while the poems don’t go anywhere unexpected.
That’s a bit of a false start, though, because in the central section of the book, a sequence of translations of Catullus, she really hits her stride. The translations are good, but the imagined responses from the woman they’re addressed to are even better, achieving a consistency of tone and resisting the urge to overstate their case. There are subtle internal rhymes, and imagery that’s sensual, evocative, and sometimes wholly surprising. ‘The Invitation’ was a particular favourite, really taking flight when the narrator lets imagination take over:
…you picture him biting the skin,
sucking on the womb-pink flesh until there is nothing
but a seed, and this, he spits at your feet.
In the final section, ‘Basic Needs’, Pope largely builds on the strengths of that middle set. One or two poems leave you thinking ‘so what?’, but others, such as ‘Bedding Icarus’, ‘The Impaler Prince And The Nanny’, and ‘Werewolf And The Moon’, develop their central metaphors well, and throw wry humour into the imaginative mix. ‘Post-Partum’, too, was excellent, returning to one of Pope’s favourite themes—the moments when lives are poised between two radically different futures. By keeping things simple and unadorned (in lines such as “if this heart beating out/ from embryonic fluid/ ever comes to term,/ it will already understand/ precision and balance”) the impact is all the greater.
One gripe was a number of typos—disappointing in what was otherwise a well-produced chapbook.