One role I have in life is as co-editor of the Sphinx site where we publish OPOI – or ‘One Point of Interest’ – reviews of poetry pamphlets. I’m really pleased that one of our new reviewers, Jane Thomas, has taken the same approach, and written an ‘OPOI review’ of The Girl Who Cried. I can’t post this on the Sphinx site, of course – that’s only for pamphlet reviews. But I love this as an approach to reviewing anyway: it means just focusing on one aspect that you’re particularly struck by, and that only briefly.
Jane said she was happy for me to share her review – so here is what she wrote:
The child inside
The crux of this glorious collection for me is:
How can I wake at fifty
with the same pain I woke with aged five? (p45)
The realisation that we always carry the child we were within us, with its most basic fears and traumas. That the adult version is just a build of years and experiences, like the stream of poems we find here.
Each page has a small square instead of a title. I think they may be small empty frames relating to the frame references – ‘unframed photographs’ (p60), ‘Your frame is f***ed’ (p53), and ‘Jesus Christ Almighty, I’ve been lugging this thing’ (p41) – but for me they also look like tick boxes: every year survived and ticked off. All the time the poet is just trying to survive: ‘Can I float?’ (p35).
It also feels like a study of the alienation that we all feel (maybe even more so in recent times). And the oft held belief that it is ours to deal with alone:
Nobody wants to know about me, or this.
Nobody. You want ‘an easy life’. (p9)
But when you read this collection you do want to know about the poet and her experience.
I grabbed your sleeve. I slipped pebbles
in your pockets: weighed you down. (p11)
Each poem slips a pebble to the reader, some shiny, some rough but they make you feel lighter – the assurance of common human experience. Some poems make use of psychoanalytic language hinting that the poet is speaking to someone and by the end of the sequence there is hope. It feels like now that the little girl has had a chance to cry, grieve and speak she is less likely to ‘drown silently’. In the final poem the poet is both loving herself and another and is being heard in the wider world. I suggest you join the audience and the journey in this inspiring book for alienating times.
- For many OPOI reviews on all sorts of poetry pamphlets, do check out the website here.
- Also, do join our Zoom Conversations with Poets webinar between HappenStance publisher Helena Nelson and me this Thursday evening. We’ll be talking about ‘Poetry & What Is Not Said’, 2nd July 6.30pm. Register here.