Claire Booker reviews ‘Moonrise’ by Ella Chappell

 

Moonrise has the cool, bright quality of its namesake. Pale grey cover, simple clarity of title and lunar etching. And the paper – what joy. Its strong, stippled surface is a reminder that books start life as plants. Creating marginalia is a treat which emits small symphonies of crisp sound. Add to this, Rosie Sherwood’s evocative nightscapes – ghostly apparitions on waxed paper that offer a liminal otherness – and the whole feel is one of quality.

But what of the writing itself? Ella Chappell’s poems are both sophisticated and feral. Here is a poet who is unafraid of taking risks and mostly successful with those that she does take. From the off, we’re on a trajectory through night, love, identity and meaning. In 01:41, 40% waning crescent

“If two black holes collided/ and sent epic ripples through spacetime
I’d be happy for this moment to be crinkled up into a thousand years.
Our hands would hold at the rate of an unfurling fern, and slower.”

Moonrise is not short of arresting titles. Anisotropy is as intriguing as its own title. It lays out lengthwise across a double page and intersperses the italicized experiences of a female clubber with a philosophical lecture on happiness.

“There are two categories of happiness.
On New Year’s Eve she tried to leave a club but couldn’t get her coat from the cloakroom.

Direct happiness originating in genuinely good experience.
An Italian boy and his French friend dragged her back to the dance floor and took turns
to push her between the bar and their warm tongues.

Chappell is no traditionalist, but her ear can be acute:

“There is no way to consume the moon.
The moon is as pure as fucking.
But that’s the truth.
There are all these lonely blue-white blooms.

And, oh god, I remember now
That a man used to love me,
And some day my body will be in the ground.”

Some poems use repetition to good effect. A few might have benefitted from the red pencil.
But that’s the price to pay for Chappell’s brutal, honest playfulness, which offers up such gems as this solipsistic riff in Blue Buttercups:

“I see my own name in retina display fifty times daily
And repeat it to myself a mantra
an affirmation of a concept that has disappeared
Ella Jane Chappell watches herself, disdainful, ironic
watches ellajchappell, unarmed, childlike, drunk, watches
pure ella chappell in an abandoned Serbian dorm room” . . .

culminating in the wisdom of the lines:

“I realized all this time I had mistaken excitement for happiness.
Preferable
to brown cones of done buddleia.”

In A great way to go back home she spars with concepts of identity, offering powerful lines such as: “Unreal city, all I am is waiting on the weightless curation of personality.”

Chappell sparkles with fresh, original phrases, and when her choices are sharp, the result is a pleasure to read, offering a vibrant, uninhibited perspective on questions that matter. As in the close of her final poem Draughts:

Here is the world.
It gets no better and no worse.”

 

 

Claire Booker’s debut poetry pamphlet Later there will be Postcards is published by Green Bottle Press (www.greenbottlepress.com/our-books). Her poems have appeared in Ambit, Magma, the Morning Star, North, Rialto and the Spectator among others. Her stage plays have been produced in America, Australia, Europe and the UK. www.bookerplays.co.uk
Moonrise by Ella Chappell is Published by As Yet Untitled, Price £10.00. 19 pages of poetry, 4 pages of photo-images (by Rosie Sherwood) It is available here: /moonrise-by-ella-chappell/
 

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