Malcolm Carson reviews Snow Child in Other Poetry

Abegail Morley, Snow Child, Pindrop Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0-9567822-4-3, £8.99

Morley is a real talent. She combines that rare gift of forensic self-scrutiny with an absence of self-pity, of being able to convey a richness of emotional experience through a punctilious use of imagery. One example here in full:

In the story I’m dreaming of Pickwell Lake
when it’s dark and only a squat of light
hunches at the far side.

He holds me up,
rubs my scales, fins, gills, whispers
to me whilst looking at the sky

and pressing me in grubby fists,
weighs me, pound for pound.

He takes a skinning knife – I’m tiny-boned;
bone on thin boniness. Later, my eyes
solidify and chink on the plate.

Here Morley exploits the image of the fish as victim to its extreme, a catch, just as a lover devoured callously in a relationship. This is beautifully clinched with the eyes which ‘solidify and chink on the plate’, devoid now of life, almost as currency.

The disturbing nature of a range of relationships is explored with the same meticulous craft. ‘Snow child’ itself is one such example where a child is mourned before its birth, yet perversely it has the ability to ‘spit my name’ and have ‘a possessing smile’. Bizarrely the ‘child’ is both ‘warm’ and ‘too cold. / The ice found you – / it erased your fingerprints.’

The inexactness of what is happening is, ironically, part of the compelling nature of this and many others of Morley’s poems, and reinforces the disordered emotional world she describes. There are, however, others where the pattern is more decipherable such as ‘The Letter’ where she traces the spit on an envelope to a lover through to the café where he stirs his tea and pays, and the washer-upper ‘stirs bubbles in the sink, washes me away.’ However whimsical a notion, this fits well with other poems dealing with annihilation such as ‘Breaking up’ in which a lover steals letters from her name until ‘When he starts on the vowels, / she’ll disappear completely.’

Comparisons with Plath inevitably arise but Morley is her own poet. There is a confidence in the way she handles her themes that defies any dependence on others as in ‘Manic episode’, for instance, where the persona is reassured that

You’ll get through, they say. Just wait.

And I’m clawing at my hands,
just blood and sinew telling each other stories:
a hand-me-down of cells
and secrets of sins.

The waiting to come through culminates in more surreal images:

I breathe on mirrors, steal eggs from the chickens,
hold them up to the sun waiting for lungs
to lunge with new air and for lips
to snap open.

Soon, they say. Soon.

But all is not about the destructive aspect of relationships. There are some beautiful love lyrics such as ‘Make me love you’ and ‘Your best side’ as well as the marvellous ‘Moved in’ where she has a different take on romance:

Now he he’s here, he’s pissing me off….
I fancy launching him like a rocket.
I’d be Crete to his Icarus – propel him to the sun.

Space prohibits me from going further. Suffice it to say, read it or better still, buy it and read it.

5 thoughts on “Malcolm Carson reviews Snow Child in Other Poetry”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s