In these wonderful poems Stephanie Bowgett writes with skill and sensitivity about the vulnerable. She has an instinct for the appropriate register and form with which to convey the poignancy of powerlessness through the ages, whether relating to children, women, refugees, or whoever. At the same time she recognises the resilience of these people without a choice.
Accurately sensuous, beautifully crafted poems that range through the dark undertow of folk tale, myth and fairy tale, contemporary multicultured landscapes, a childhood in post-war Germany, and the curious double moral standards of the English 19th Century; a collection packed full as a beehive with crackling energy and riches. Wonderful.
Through myth, history and personal experience, A Poor Kind of Memory dramatises humanity’s most vulnerable moments with conviction and compassion. Bowgett’s unshowy craft and linguistic restraint speak volumes.
(Italics from ‘Last Post’ by Carol Ann Duffy)
If poetry could tell it backwards, true, begin
that moment the speeding Vauxhall Astra left you
broken on the road; but you get up, unpeel from the tarmac
unblemished in your pink Eid clothes; the spilled onions
bounce back into the paper bag and into the crook
of your left arm jingling with bangles, shocking
pink, purple and gold. Your little brother rewinds.
His dimpled hand curls back into yours. The car reverses
out of the frame and together you step backwards
past the parked van into the shop where the shopkeeper
spills onions back into the tray and passes the coins,
still warm from being held tight, into your mehndied palm.
You back across the busy road, stop, look and listen
before you skip along the pavement, waving over your shoulder
to your house and Mum on the step, and into the spicy kitchen
where Grandmas and aunties, sisters and cousins chop and stir,
chatter and giggle, exotic in jewel-coloured silks.
Your mother puts the coins back in her purse, swallows
words she would regret forever, decides there’s enough to eat
without bhajis. This is your last year before big school
will open endless doors, start to grow you away from her.
She gives you an extra Eid hug; her sad blessing,
begrudges you none of the opportunities never open to her.
If poetry could truly tell it backwards,
Then it would.
A Poor Kind of Memory, Stephanie Bowgett, £7