This week’s poem is from Kathryn Simmonds’ second poetry collection, The Visitations, originally published in 2013.
The Visitations is the follow-up to Kathryn Simmonds’ Forward Prize-winning debut, Sunday at the Skin Launderette. As with her previous collection, an appealing voice prevails, though this simplicity is something of a veil, through which the author, with subtle shifts of language and perspective, manages to imply darker themes and worlds unseen. The tone is often simultaneously satirical and elegiac and the collection abounds with sudden moments of strange illumination: a lime tree strikes up a conversation; a life coach finds an old passport; an infant teeters on the brink of speech. Here are poems where the physical and metaphysical meet, where questions of new motherhood are set against those of faith, and the larger conundrum of how to live.
What I Did in My Summer Holidays
Never ask for an ice-cream confidently or menacingly or using
any other adverb. And if you’re in pain, show me where it hurts
and how. Love is an abstract noun. Dialogue gives the effect
of real speech but with all the boring rubbish taken out.
Every thought you’ve ever had has been thought better and by
someone else. Does anyone have any questions? We talked
last week about the stanza, you might think of stanzas as little
rooms: what are you going to do in yours? Are you going to just
lie there watching light reinvent itself? The second line doesn’t
scan. Yes, flair is better. For homework, sit in a soft chair and
describe the exact experience, no, don’t do that, write down a
conversation you hear on a bus; go out in the rain and open
your mouth; make a list of everything in your bathroom cabinet.
Try not to break your line on an article. The first person
you have to please is yourself, but if nobody else is pleased
you have a problem. Fill out the form and give it back to me:
te-dum te-dum te-dum te-dum te-dum. Notice that beautiful line
where the widow’s hands are likened to the wings of a dead bird.
Less is more, but sometimes less is less. What do librarians get paid?
I’ve never seen that particular noun used as a verb. But it’s too late
now to get to grips with the Dewey Decimal System.
Did anyone else have a problem with the turnip metaphor?