Issue Six

Winter 2013

 

Marion Tracy, Giant in the Doorway, 32pp, £4.00
HappenStance, 21 Hatton Green, Glenrothes, Fife KY7 4SD, www.happenstancepress.com

Marion Tracy’s volume contains the twelve poem title sequence and eleven other poems. The sequence presents the child eye’s view and it captures well both the literalism and the magical, metaphorical wonder of ten year old perception: “her hair smells and is made into golden sausages” (‘Giant in the Doorway: 2’).

In general, Tracy’s approach in these poems is to create an everyday sense of normality early in the poem:

every day of winter, I sit at table
with the cups and plates and forks.
(‘At tea-time’)

and then gradually darken and fracture that normality, in image, language and form, sometimes with a stream of consciousness interference between child’s perception and other images, creating uncertainty in the reader. For example, we are told (of the mother), “her eyes aren’t right” and “something is happening again”.

so her falling apart
faces will come crashing down
right through the glass
to break the dishes
(‘At tea-time’)

Struggling to understand and deal with her mother’s illness and problem behaviour. There’s enough strangeness in the child’s account for us to wonder with her “will I be like my mother when I grow up” though in facing the giant in the doorway, she is growing, ‘taking the first step’.

Sometimes lines are a little prosaic, but this seems necessary to set up restrained language as background to the tensions of the subject. Sometimes a poem attempts a full histrionic account of the mother’s mental dissolution, trying to express the experience of it directly, as in ‘Constriction’ and ‘Banshee’, which have powerful elements, though perhaps riskily expressed. Whilst we empathise with the child’s position, as this is poetry, and the situation is “constructed”, I don’t think we’re always drawn into them. Although the poems are finely convincing as expressions, they do not quite disturbing, though there are moving moments. Perhaps one of the tenderest poems is the last poem in the book, which avoids all explicit drama, ‘Ghost’:

and I see suddenly lightning
is quite beautiful
when she takes my hand and says
like someone who’s never afraid of the dark

 and has known my name for always

Hush now,
hush you mouth now baby,
bush.
(‘Ghost’)

 

Noel Williams

 

 

long stairs