HappenStance, 2007 - £3.00 www.happenstancepress.com
The longing machine is on;
nothing will turn it off.
This pamphlet is both a longing machine and a TARDIS. It’s saturated with love and loss; with many lines I wanted to read aloud to strangers on the bus. And yet there’s still room for a man with a warm red cello between his legs; for a Scottish opera singer; for the Snow Queen and a stranger on a train; for scientific and medical facts and for fairytale. As Menter says in ‘Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony in the Dead of Winter’, between the layers, there is
order and chaos, bleakness and light
jammed together as in life—
There is indeed much bleakness but also a warm, searching-for-wisdom spirituality in these poems. Some stanzas seem to be modern sutras: advice learned from bitter experience and offered for contemplation. ‘What Brahms Taught Me’ suggests, for example, that
You may as well wear your deepest secrets in public
since few will see them for what they are
and those who do are worth keeping.
There is a quiet bravery about the poems. This may sound crass, but Menter really has mined her life for her subject matter, without self-pity or mawkishness. Her language is gently musical and deceptively simple; these poems have the power of water over stone.
If Marcia Menter lived in Hertfordshire I would definitely be knocking on her door, apologizing for the intrusion and asking her to read her poems aloud to me. And if I got away with that, I’d be back the following week with questions about her 9/11 poem, the sequence on Ann Drummond-Grant, and the final lines of ‘Ambush’:
Only here, at the last twist of the path,
do I feel the conflagration’s breath.
The longing machine is on. I want to discuss these poems, learn more...