Malcolm Carson

Gifts and other goodies

I love to come home to A5 brown envelopes – the kind that are thick enough to contain a book or pamphlet, not thin enough to be a returned submission. This last week or so I’ve opened three such envelopes and have been chuffed to see the books and am grateful to the lovely poets who sent them: Derrick Buttress, Malcolm Carson, Alison Hill.

2014-05-10 12.27.22

A while ago I read through some of Malcolm Carson’s poems from Cleethorpes Comes to Paris. There is the obvious connection between us, Malcolm kindly endorsed Snow Child three years ago, but there’s the less obvious one – we were both born there (sadly Cleethorpes, not Paris). I was whisked away within weeks, not sure how long Malcolm stuck it out. The sequence of poems is published by Shoestring Press and recalls a trip to Paris of times past. Leaving from Calais the narrator says, “Pardon, monsieur, / quelle est la route à Paris”. Carson mixes what we know of Paris – Sartre, Gauloises, the Metro with a glimpse into its seedier side:

Round midnight when we saw her
haunched to piss, the pavement
flowed until she upped her drawers

alert now to our approach. Clochard,
we said, held back, watching
her embarrassed shadow skulk
against the Sorbonne’s gothic walls.


Some great writing and my favourite lines have to be:

I caught him at the Gard du Nord
boarding the train for Cleethorpes.

(Chez Popoff)

I’ll leave the last words to Nigel Jarrett at Acumen and report on the other two books soon.

“Musical, resigned sensuous… So persuasive is Carson’s voice”.


Caroline Carver reviews Snow Child

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

It’s a real pleasure to review Abegail Morley’s recent collection, starting with the delightful cover by Jenny Meilihove, – and you might say a cover isn’t the right place to start but, let’s face it, it’s a powerful make or break part of any book, especially poetry. In the case of Snow Child, the image reflects so exactly the delicacy of the writing, with its gentle and attractive style, which only gradually reveals itself as something not quite, in fact not at all right, in the world Abegail inhabits through her writing. Like her first prize-winning collection How to Pour Madness into a Teacup, the work is beautiful but unsettling. It’s no coincidence that the very first poem is called Unstable, and immediately shows the surreal way things are going: “Quite unexpectedly this morning / I splashed my inner light / on the hallway floor …”

Although most of the poems are sombre, there is wry observation as well. The small irritations of sharing a home with someone are illustrated, not by major problems, but the last-straw incidentals which get you when nothing in a relationship works any more. In Moved in she says: “He’s the type of bloke who hisses through his teeth, /whistles in the loo when it’s dark. / His alarm clock/makes a rowdy din at 6am. “ Yes, well, clearly this man’s on his way out. But be warned, there’s explicit pain to come: Mud, “I wait for you, one hand over my mouth” (what an image) and Family album, are almost too painful to read … ‘On the scan you are tiny – a whiteness / in a dark sky ….. You stitched yourself to me with fisherman’s nylon,/sharp needles where your nails should have been. / But even in my warm belly you were unformed” … when I first heard this poem read aloud I involuntarily blurted out that it was “terrible”. What I meant was that the subject and the way it was expressed were almost too much to bear.

How to deal with pain, one’s own, or someone else’s, is always a perennial question, although many poets, especially women, manage it in a hugely impressive way. I’d put Abegail Morley into this category, she’s laid poems of pain on the page without complaint, with the gentleness that the best poems can find, which allows them their own roads into the reader’s mind.

It’s particularly compelling when the poems dip into the surreal again. In Breaking up, someone “steals the sense from her sentence”, “Last week in Starbucks / he snatched away the letter L / …….. when he starts on the vowels,/she’ll disappear completely”. I love the way the fantasy world mixes with the reality of Starbucks. A few pages on, and we’re having coffee in Costa, but still nothing’s straightforward … “We drink here because of the rain forests,/ We’re saving them.” Although in Body she’s more relentless, … “I am certain someone said / the dead grow larger at night .. “

Oh Abegail. Further on, and I’m in the poem Hospital ward with you, I’ve been drawn so deeply into pain … “I brandish my scars at the moon; they are no deeper than its seas, / not struck thick like impact craters, not a patchwork of black and white …”

“If we die, just for a little while,” says Abegail in Against the rain, “we see ourselves running onwards, / we can close our already closed eyes / and watch the white in the light of our lids.” and at the end of this same poem: “We need to die for a moment / and watch our present greet us, / like a stranger in the street / mistaking us for someone else.”

In Snow Child, love occasionally holds out the hand of hope, although nothing’s ever fulfilled. But they are the least sad of all the poems, and one hopes some may develop, in future, into a kind of happiness. In Make me love you, Abegail says: “You taught me how to pinch the sky / and let a gap breathe through the crack, / slowly pulling apart our thumbs and fingers / to capture a person at great distance.” Perhaps such distance will lessen in the next collection.

Caroline Carver


Jan Fortune on Snow Child

Abegail Morley’s Snow Child is a tour de force that moves on from her excellent debut short-listed for the Forward Prize for best first collection (How to Pour Madness into a Teacup, Cinnamon Press). Morley has an uncanny gift for the intense and slightly disturbing, for looking objectively and in minute detail at what might otherwise be unbearable and bringing it into the light.

The clarity of these poems is dazzling, always perfectly controlled. George Eliot wrote, ‘If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.’ Morley approaches such vision, yet also the skill to mediate it with elegance.

 Jan Fortune


Snow Child

My new collection is out in November from Pindrop Press. Some (kind) people are saying the sort of thing I’ve pasted below. If you’d like to be a kind person please go to: Pindrop Pressand bag yourself a copy.

The launch is at the Phoenix Artists Club on November 15th at 7.30pm.

And one kind person says…
Abegail Morley’s Snow Child gifts us bold, unflinching, memorable poems, dazzling in their precision and clarity. This is a poet who faces life’s wonders, complexities and losses head-on, and invites us on a lyrical journey which will, at times, take our breath away.  Catherine Smith

“Intensely personal poems of love, desertion, obsession, written with great skill and delicacy yet with a disturbing sparsity and uncanny detachment. Snow Child is a captivating and impressive collection.”  Malcolm Carson

“At the heart of Abegail Morley’s powerful second collection is a deep sense of loss. The poems work at countering that loss with tangible visceral images that both disturb and sing with their own gorgeousness. Morley has captured just what it feels like to be living inside a skin so thin, the sun burns right through in all its lucid glory.”   Helen Ivory