I Refuse to Turn into a Hatstand, Charlotte Wetton
Calder Valley Poetry, 2017 £5.00
A strong fragility
Inside this collection full of sensual, optimistic, humorous (including ironic and wry) and surreal images/imagery, I find myself particularly drawn to those exploring fragility, telling stories of characters on the edge.
The tension in ‘Primed’ is palpable from the start:
Seven a.m., she’s plaiting her guts in the oval mirror,
lacing her organs into whalebone ribs, everything
folded inwards, over and inwards, cinched tight.
As she leaves the house the old thoughts come,
a litany of knots in the rope of her spine.
The present tense is inviting. The line of monosyllables as ‘she’ sets off from home stands out amid the dense imagery of the surrounding lines, and ‘litany’ is such an alluring word. It’s here I begin to realise how much strength can be found in fragility — in a keep-on-keeping-on way.
In ‘The Painter’, there’s a man who ‘from loneliness, […] paints mythical beasts. Wet with ink, / they step out of the corners and onto the paper’. I can’t help imagining what they look like.
One of the shorter poems (‘Baggage’) is also the darkest (in a quirky way) with images I see fused together, dreamlike, as in a surrealist painting. The opening lines drew me to this poem and to fragility as a theme:
At work, she forgets
to take herself out the bag,
sits all day in cellophane.
‘Home Safe’ offers a stark contrast. In the return to ‘sweet normality’ on a partner’s homecoming from a tour of duty, the understated narrative and use of the senses makes the situation wholly real. Images are filmic; close-ups speed-up as the tension rises; and the title becomes sweetly ironic:
his gaze sliding over the windows, her face.
At night, she reaches out and he’s not there,
he’s up, on patrol, checking the locks
Caught up in the story, I nearly miss the lovely likening of the physical signs of his presence to ‘golden / […] / fog she doesn’t see through’, the colour and clever separation by line and stanza catching my eye.