Wendy Pratt has a diverse range of poems in this collection and what draws them together is a combination of loss, stunning imagery (which is at times breath-taking) and the sense that ghosts of the past always rear up, refuse to be forgotten. For me, the beauty lies not just in the words and stunning last lines, but also in the way Pratt shows each part of the book as a “room” and each poem an “exhibit”. I was compelled to follow as she guided me with ease into her private landscape.
She invites us into a magical world where the first Mrs Rochester is “Tongue-tied/ and wearing two continents/ like ill-fitting shoes”, a plastic bag is a “single billowed lung”, and bored God creates a dog that finds itself in a forest where “the wind played the Dog’s body like a flute”.
Pratt’s collection is split into sections in which she explores subjects in detail whilst maintaining a sense of unity and development. We enter unexpected places: the mysterious cabinet of hearts; the portrait gallery; a surrealist’s wardrobe; a box of teeth and claws; a hovel, and an archaeological dig in Yorkshire. In Star Carr we discover villages with wonderful names: Muston, Flixton, Folkton, Heslerton, and when the digging is done there “will be/ a memory, a watermark, distant/ and diluted, but the sun will still rise”. I feel there is a parallel here with Pratt’s collection which leaves itself as a memory, a mark trailing on our skin.
In The Unused Room, Pratt speaks of the moment a child is conceived, and how the pregnancy test marked “her debut, her first tentative/ step into the spotlight of our love”. This section is measured and precise; Pratt unwraps her sadness, leaves us aching.
At the heart of the collection, she offers grace and pain in equal measures – the reader never feels overwhelmed or overburdened, the poet has total control. We linger somewhere between darkness and light, slightly troubled, but in the hands of a skilful poet whose voice is strong, crisp and lucid.
Thank you Wendy and Brett for asking me to write the foreword to this extraordinary book.
Nan Hardwick Turns Into a Hare
I will tell you how it was. I slipped
into the hare like a nude foot
into a glorious slipper. Pushing her bones
to one side to make room for my shape
so I could settle myself like a child within her.
In the dark I groped for her freedom, gently teasing
it apart across my fingers to web across my palm.
Here is where our separation ends:
I tensed her legs with my arms, pushed my rhythm
down the stepping-stones of spine. An odd feeling this,
to hold another’s soul in the mouth like an egg;
the aching jaw around her delicate self. Her mind
was simple, full of open space and weather.
I warmed myself on her frantic pulse and felt the draw
of gorse and grass, the distant slate line
at the edge of the moor. The air span diamonds
our of sea fret to catch across my tawny coat
as I began to fold the earth beneath my feet
and fly across the heath, the heather.
In the dark I grope across the bedroom
floor, feel for the shape of the wall, the door
and half trip, half step over your workshoes.
Shoe trap. Your favourite trick, four
shoes, haphazardly strewn,
your habit. My habit is the stumble, the meeting
of floor and face, the standard bruise
to the knee. Your shoe trap has held me captive
for thirteen years, swearing in the dark on my way
to the bathroom. Your habits and mine; a dance,
a meeting of selves over and over. The day
after my sister loses her husband to cancer,
I trip on your shoes in the dark, holding their scrubby,
battered shape, I’ve never felt so blessed or lucky.
Museum Pieces is published by Prole Books and you can buy it here
Wendy Pratt was born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire in 1978. She now lives just outside Filey. She is a graduate of Hull University where she studied Biomedical science. Wendy works for the local NHS hospital as a Microbiologist. She is also studying towards a BA in English literature with the Open University, because she didn’t think she’d punished herself enough with the completion of her BSc.
She has enjoyed publication of her poetry in Acumen, Snakeskin, Prole, Other Poetry, The Interpreter’s House, Pennine Platform and The Frogmore papers amongst others.
Wendy was asked to co-judge Prole’s first poetry competition, something which she enjoyed immensely. She was also delighted to have her poem ‘eating Mackerel’ highly commended in the Swale Life April 2011 poetry competition.
Wendy’s first poetry pamphlet, nan Hardwick Turns into a Hare was published by ‘Prolebooks’ in late 2011 and is selling well. She was delighted to see it reviewed favourably in the Times Literary Supplement, Other Poetry and several other publications.
5 thoughts on “Museum Pieces by Wendy Pratt”
Sometimes a review makes you feel you must have a collection, and this is one of them. ‘Shoe Trap’ is such a moving, brilliant poem illustrating the power of using an ordinary, everyday object to weave such powerful emotions around. Thanks for the posting – I shall make sure the book is on my bedside table soon.
Agree with Valerie sounds like a gem.
Excellent review. Very struck by that Hare poem you included. Just ordered the PDF version of Museum Pieces!
I really love the Hare poem!