Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Perdika Press, 2007 - £4.50

 

The blurb on the back cover of this elegant chapbook describes Peter Brennan as re-announcing himself “after a long silence”. Well, I’ll admit I hadn’t come across him before—my loss, I now realise.

 

This is a sequence of poems that seems to record the course of an actual relationship, but it’s not quite as simple as that. The context and tone changes, sometimes rapidly (at one point he sounds almost medieval, talking about “withy bed and open mere”, the next he’s in Starbucks), and there are all sorts of allusions, particularly to Venus, both as the evening star and the goddess of love. It’s not always easy to grasp, but it works wonderfully well.

 

That, I think, is down to Brennan’s style. No one could ever accuse him of overwriting—every word is made to count, every full stop (or lack of one) even. With some poets, I suspect, the use of irregular punctuation, lots of one-word lines and words broken across two lines might quickly have started to grate, but here it suits Brennan’s purpose admirably, mirroring the slow piecing together of memory.

 

If all this sounds dry, or too clever for its own good, it’s not. Joy and sadness run only just below the surface of these poems—and sometimes they’re even more apparent than that. It is heart-breaking when, in the final piece, Brennan writes:

 

You took the song but sent

the singer

 

slowly

away…

 

There’s a subtle music too, in lines such as:

 

We choose the train that sways
and curves by Stort and Lea, glinting
words from lip to lip
– remembrances,
learnings of the week—
patterns gingerly
unpicked.

(‘Cambridge’)

 

The title, of course, should have given it away to start with. This sequence is, when all’s said and done, a torch song, and a very fine one at that.

 

Matt Merritt