Karen Dennison won the Indigo Dreams Collection Competition in 2011, and Counting Rain (Indigo Dreams Publishing) is a strong first collection. According to Helen Ivory her poems “bristle with disquiet and transformation” and I have to agree. At times Dennison’s imagery is astonishing. One moment she shines “a light into memory’s cage, / through its mocking bars” where there is a book “with a mummified cover, cracked like old leather” (Memory’s Cage). Another time she tells us that the moons of Saturn “rise in her fingernails / and the Milky Way swirls in her tea.” (Methods of Madness).
Her eye for detail is acute, the poems so well-honed they are literally breathtaking. In Releasing You Dennison regulates our breathing by carefully chosen words and punctuation:
I wind and wind, feel the pressure build.
The key-hole is empty, its key long lost.
At the end of the above stanza, she startles the reader with “Opening the lid, your eyes are my eyes”. In the final couplet, she returns to the image of the eyes with: “Lowering the lid, I catch your scent, / breathe you in, and out again.” She has perfect control over both the poem and the reader.
This collection grows from birth, with the opening poem, Moon Landing, all the way through life’s rich experiences (explored with clarity of language and strong metaphors) to The Final Room the last poem in the collection:
So this is it – the final room.
Empty shelves line each wall
to store your faded memories.
Sometimes ending like this can feel a little clichéd, wrapping things up too tidily. But it is not the case with this collection – Dennison’s finishes with loops and knots pulled so tightly that she grips the reader right down to the very last word.