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Blank, Jake Wild HallThe jacket is white. The author's name is centred in bold lower case letters about an inch up from the foot. The word BLANK (the title) is white but set against a black background which has an interesting effect of picking out the black shapes between the letters, as though the word is only half there.

Bad Betty Press, 2019  £6.00

It’s the hope that thrills you

This collection feels to me like it is balanced finely between hope and withdrawal from the world. 

The latter half of the pamphlet has elements of hope running through it, for example in ‘Sláinte Gan Slaghdán agus Bás ná n’Dairbhre’ (an Irish toast that means ‘May you have good health without illness, and die on Valencia’) where the poet writes

here that is as beautiful as hope
here that is as quiet as the unmarked stones
here that is rich in rebellion

i hope it is here

In the poem that follows this, however, we see negativity creeping in, following a chink of light. It’s worth quoting ‘Kin’ in full to illustrate this point:

after the war
we are still silver birch
a little more shine
catching fire from
the embers still

when you’re watered
in gasoline
a change in season
can destroy a forest.

The brief moments of positivity are counterbalanced by lines like ‘the things i have been avoiding / turn to ulcers in my mouth’ in the excellently titled ‘This Morning is a Biscuit Dunked into Fresh Tea’ and the lines

you will drink until
sunday then be sober
& cry like there
is nothing to lose
there won’t be

It’s easy to feel like there’s little or no cause for optimism reading this pamphlet. The situations presented tend towards the bleak end of the scale, and we’re often hauled back from the brink of positivity by the hand of pessimism.

‘There Are Many Types of Love’, for example, ends with ‘when she rests you know the difficulty setting of this / game is hope’ and the final poem, ‘It’s a 12-Week Course’, concludes

take a deep breath kid
you’re nearly there.

After everything that’s come before, it’s hard to know whether this is a positive or a negative sign. Without calling for the introduction of VAR into poetry reviews, I’m calling it a positive. 

Mat Riches

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