Refurbishment by Joy Howard

Refurbishment Joy Howard, Ward Wood Publishing, 2011

Throughout this collection Howard continues to surprise with richness and liveliness. When I thought I’d worked out the pattern of poems and pieced them together in my head, she shifted voices and I’d stumbled on another that would completely change my mind about the collection as a whole. Wild Bunch does this. It tripped me up after the preceding poems; I just wasn’t expecting it. Like the earth-nuts of the first sub-poem, it grows, low at first and then blooms with beautiful language, introducing a run of nature poems that follow:

“When umbels open they assumea nodding attitude
but afterwards become erect”

Howard gives us some diverse pieces; Be Lucky with its arresting and unexpected final couplet, bowls players, moth-collectors, as well as using various dialects such as that in Place of Safety –  its wonderful final verse tilting the whole poem on its head. Particularly powerful is Collaboratrice based on a television interview with three women ‘collaborators’ from World War II.

At times I thought some extraneous words could have been snipped out and I felt a little let down by a couple of the images. Nevertheless she has some killer lines and some poems that really do make you sit bolt upright. Turning Point, Berlin Kreuzberg and The Knife are brilliantly executed and wonderful linguistically. For me the collection is worth buying for those two poems alone. If I could leave you with two pieces from the book they would be these:

is merely an arrangement
you do not understand” From the Void

“with brilliant capability of being
hidden in a pocket, held in the protecting curve
of a handspan, this small splendour has
survived the smash and grab of centuries.”  Refurbishment

1 thought on “Refurbishment by Joy Howard”

  1. I enjoyed the review and the quotes you chose. And it also gave me a chance to check out Ward Wood Publishing and sign on for their newsletter. Thanks. .

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