Lung Iron, Daniel Fraser
Ignition Press, 2020 £5.00
The poetry of streets and hinterland
This outstanding pamphlet showcases another emerging talent. Its poems are wide-ranging and the best contain first-rate poetry of place.
‘Saoirse’ is surely as fine a poem sparked by a tattoo as any since Michael Donaghy’s ‘Liverpool’, and it evokes its setting effortlessly:
A shirtless man with a black mohawk is raking
dry leaves across the road
her name tattooed on his spine, letters a foot high,
blue Dunhill lip-hung and peeling
the uncaring lilt of decades pulling at that
This is high-register writing, admirably, and philosophically sustained by the poet. The line breaks (especially ‘peeling’) are well-placed, rendering lengths of line pleasingly uneven.
In ‘Gospel Oak to Barking’ (which is about the ‘Goblin’ section of the London Overground railway network) the narrator boldly gets off the train a third of the way through the poem to outline Harringay’s cut-price oddities and multicultural delights:
A man in
a three-piece sequin suit, hair brocaded with shells,
buys a knock-off Disney princess made of Victoria
sponge, her arms pierced by candles [...]
A Kurdish anarchist plays
the accordion, doling out film scores for the hair-netted cooks
folding shop-front dough
Here Fraser allows the scene to convey the resonance.
However, the nicely animated beginning of the eco-poem ‘Covenant’ (‘The river wells up with branches and dislodged scum, // an iron foam works its way across the valley // winding wildly, drunk on damage’) doesn’t live up to early expectations. It seems to me to veer disappointingly into cliché: ‘The council point to lack of funds, patting // their fat pockets like charades’.
On the other hand, another Calderdale poem, ‘Hebden Bridge’, explores both town and edgelands affectionately and beautifully:
Hold on, there are still the old mills, oak woods,
and carpets of bluebells, millponds
still with sediment, and the great moors swept
hard like a birthplace for the wind.
‘Winter Window’, arguably the highlight, has a similarly personal atmosphere, wrought with simple but delightful language:
We turn away, draw the curtains
in the room, the cold world gone.
Bodies lost to one another’s heat, hands and mouths
settled in the hollows, in the soft pressures we call home.