Alan Price reviews ‘Later there will be Postcards’ by Claire Booker

 

It’s rare to come across a new poet who not only has a confident voice, but more importantly, a sensibility that tackles death, the passage of time, ageing, childhood and a strong eye for the natural world. Such big themes are handled with wit, originality and insight. Claire Booker’s range is considerable. Her skill is evident. And the sheer musicality of her work in her debut collection Later There Will Be Postcards exciting.

With her first poem The Night Mare, you’re immediately thrown into powerful imagery of sexual anxiety and identity transference, jolted by reasoning and sadness. The nightmare’s the dream horse that the poet rides and feeds with a lemon.

 

I take the little tongue with a mind of its own.

Vice it. Force the rind down.

 

Waking up, the dreamer recalls the past.

 

When we were young enough to count ourselves in summers

And you my turkey cock with feathers and attitude.

 

Two great lines. Further great lines from her poems are worth quoting. In the moving Meeting my Mother she arrives at this consideration.

 

This is not my mother. Or has she now assumed,

In some slant way, aspects of the room?

 

That’s a beautiful, touching and exact way of imagining the presence of a dead parent. Whilst in Booker’s last poem Provencal Crosses she recalls playing, as a child, near a cemetery. A bell sounds and she wonders where the chimes go.

 

“…whether they hang

 

blind in the cave of immense sky and who

makes the bell sing each hour. I am too young still

 

to know that even God can be automated –

that there will be just this one time

 

Of course it’s unfair to simply cherry-pick lines from remarkable poems. But with poems as good as these it’s hard not to do so.

 

Booker has her influences – for me that’s early Samuel Beckett. In the beautiful poem Model in Love (after Giacometti’s “Walking Woman” sculpture) we have a spindly upright figure that’s inimitably the Italian artist’s yet also like a character in Beckett’s late prose. Her poem achieves a delicate balance – both praising and criticising the act of creativity.

 

how he came again and again

simply to touch

the intelligent slope of her shoulder.

 

This is followed by the dark constriction of the poem’s final lines.

 

still she knows that a girl must be free

to walk as she will –

that a pedestal impedes,

no matter how tenderly it kisses

the stems of her feet.

 

Claire Booker is also unafraid to experiment with form. And although I think poems like On Hearing the Bell Again at Chichilianne and Visiting My Father are

not as intense and as moving as her other pieces their technical dexterity should be applauded.

Later There Will Be Postcards is an outstanding debut pamphlet. Claire Booker’s humour, startling (but never over the top) imagery, compassion and tone convinced me she’s a genuinely original poet who takes great calculated risks and is able to quietly master her risk-taking. I eagerly await a full collection and even more surprises.

 

 

 

Alan Price‘s film reviews can be read online at Filmuforia.  A poetry collection entitled Outfoxing Hyenas was published by Indigo Dreamsin 2012, and his pamphlet  Angels at the Edge appeared in 2016.

 

Later there will be Postcards by Claire Booker is published by Green Bottle Press and can be ordered here: http://greenbottlepress.com/our-books/

 

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