Julie Hogg is impressed by the unorthodox but skilfully crafted poetry of Lisa Kelly
The title of this pocket volume, the seventh book in the Thumbprint series by Stonewood Press, caught my attention. Lisa Kelly has single-sided deafness from childhood mumps and since my son is partially sighted this shared variance of a sense intrigued me.
This is a hugely satisfying chapbook. I found the contents page similar to a selection box of artisan chocolates and so I dipped into the title poem, after Levine’ “Nightship”, an exploration into the complexity, or not, of what may be heard:
in what you hear – the three layers of sound: water crashing into the hull & beneath that the steady beating of the engine & beneath that the wind whispering “Ceuta” into your good ear.
As a stream of consciousness piece with long lines, the form of this poem delights me. In fact, the variety of form within this whole book delights me; each choice being perfect for each work. The momentum of the poems together, often jostling for attention with exuberance and attractive energy, is delightful too. Quirkily, the unpunctuated “Aphid Reproduction and Unpunctuated White Noise”, has punctuation solely demarcating each section. Even when poring over intricate familial observations (“Slant of Summer”), these poems travel over each page; free-spirited, carefree and resilient.
Back to the sweet index. Poems that explore hearing and its loss are compelling and vital:
How close, if notes are missed, Is melody to malady, (“How to Explain Melodious”) Bisect me: discover my left eardrum lined with rockwool (‘Ghost Heritage’), How many times has someone mistaken my leaning in as an attempt to get amorous, (‘The Flesh Made Mobile’).
The rhythm of “Deaf Dance” is infectious. In the way that Philip Levine’s poem asks us ‘know what work is?’ I wanted to know what deafness is and now I do, in a small beginning way.
Delving again, “Saltatorium” is particularly moreish, with wickedly playful realism and I relished the sensation of the sounds on my tongue: ‘O drear, O dreary, dreary dirge for this deer.’ Those mutes! Each line over five feet, this poem sprints breathlessly, resembling the fleeing, magnificent creature:
its formerly fine fetlock, fends off the dog howls, fends off the fender of the four-by-four Ford,
This work revels shamelessly in sibilance:
sometimes in a sensitive somewhat sensory rush hour of solemnity sensed its shadow?
Then, after these flowing alliterations, it becomes stilted by those mutes once more: ‘its ditch down’
In “Ø” (Kelly is half Danish) the pleasure of sounds is again savoured and shared from poet to reader, ardently:
Danish for Island a new word new world to explore my tongue tastes the sound of Ø touches its shores its limits
The poet’s voice treats limits with respect, although always keen to wink and take a risk with freshness and vigour. “Aubade for an Artist” is a veritable, addictive earworm; a timeless lyrical poem, rhyming couplets in quatrains and refrain in the final stanza neatly wrapping up an evening with imagery so intoxicatingly precise:
the blunt edge, notched tip of a fish knife – I thought, Can we possibly still our lives.
This appetizer of a collection hurtles, in a pleasingly unorthodox manner, engaging in a myriad of frequencies. It has longevity. I will return to it again and again, and it tantalizes for more.
Spark: a Poetry Anthology Reading
Friday 18 January 2019, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
We asked 44 poets to write poems inspired by Muriel Spark’s 22 novels (2 poets per novel). The result was a striking anthology of poetry and art by some of today’s most provocative and creative practitioners. Readers at this event will be:
Editors, Rob A. Mackenzie and Louise Peterkin, will MC the event and are happy to answer questions. Copies of the anthology will be on sale for £10. No previous knowledge of Muriel Spark’s work is required!
This is a free event.
Learned so much at the Symposium about barriers to engagement with live literature. Louisa Adjoa Parker talked about barriers to engagement from an intersectional perspective, looking at ethnicity, gender, invisible disabilities, income and place that can contribute to more than one ‘need’ and layers of marginalisation, when aiming for inclusivity. Abi Palmer talked about her exciting creative practice and dealing with challenges as a wheelchair user. Her debut collection is out from Penned in the Margins next year, so look out for that. I talked about d/Deafness from a personal perspective as well as an event organiser and the need to consider how d/Deafness is often invisible. BSL interpreters and captions are options for different access needs, but if you can’t afford that, at least reserve seats at the front of venues for people who are d/Deaf or Hard of Hearing, and get readers and performers to use a mic even if they think their voice ‘carries’. It might not carry far enough! Thanks to University of Southampton and Matt West from ArtfulScribe for organising a brilliant event.
My new pamphlet ‘Philip Levine’s Good Ear’ is now available from Stonewood Press and I am extremely grateful to editors and publishers Jacqueline Gabbitas and Martin Parker for all their amazing hard work in helping this thumbprint get out into the wide world. Many of the poems explore my single-sided deafness and I hope you enjoy them.
If you’d like to buy a copy, that would be marvellous and you can do so here .
The results of the Bridport Prize 2018 are now out. Happy to have made the Poetry Shortlist, and here’s the full list for all categories.