Issue Two

Winter 2012

Pippa Little The Snow Globe 54 pp, £4.00
Red Squirrel Press, Holy Jesus Hospital, City Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 2AS,

Stylistically Little’s poetry is sharp, precise, exact, both in expression and observation. Some of the poems are only one or two focused sentences. Yet her sentence may span a dozen lines, making the poem a single thought but not a simple one. That sentence may sketch a place, then tease out a relationship, move on to evoke a memory, glance smoothly over some striking natural object, pin all this down with a startling image and do all this in language that sparkles and shines, in a few well-honed words:

Then, remember that city tree, grown
Through the metal frame of its sapling home
So wire curls grew from the bark in shark-tooth glinting:
What began as cradle turned to cage.
It’s attachment shapes us most, he says.

Although this is a nicely produced pamphlet, I think there’s a flaw in production. A largish font is used, with generous margins, making the poems visually very readable, but requiring the physical wrapping around of longer lines. This creates a visual imbalance in some poems, and a sense of false endings in some lines which, given the very careful punctuation Little uses (she’s very clear on the difference in her work between dash and colon, for example) and her subtle rhythms, is somewhat counter productive – it creates ambiguity in reading and may even damage the flow of the poem. I think about half the poems have lines wrapped like this. I would have much preferred a presentation in a smaller font which preserves the integrity of the poet’s intent.

Even so, this is a minor irritation in work one wants to read and re-read, whether it’s the imagined historical projections of ‘Whaligoe Steps’ or ‘From Brechin to Auchenblae, 1897’; or the personal recollections and yearnings in ‘Trick of my Eye’ and ‘RNLI Box’ or simply to revel in the inventive, gritty, language. Many of these poems bury rich linguistic ore in every line:

Sea haar sucks colour from crow-step roofs,
taints the air with bone-ash as we pass
shapes from this life or the last, marled
as particulate,
Scurdie Ness to Ferryden
a booming blows over the water
   (RNLI Box)

I guess I occasionally struggled with an image or an expression in one or two of these poems. Perhaps the image is too allusive or the language too tight. But that might be my problem as a reader, rather than a problem in any poem itself. These are glittering pieces, some with their own luminosity, and even where I might fail quite to get it, I still revelled in the language, the craft and the perception that makes them work.