Review

Redemption Songs, Annie Wright.

£6.95 UK post free. (ISBN 0-9540913-4-5) Arrowhead Press, 70 Clifton Road, Darlington, Co. Durham, DL1 5DX

Fred D'Aguiar's comments on the cover of 'Redemption Songs' refer to this first full collection as a 'long-awaited event among the fraternity of poetry readers and workshop loyalists'. Forgiving him for the term 'fraternity' when we might prefer 'sorority', the book very much bears out his claim. One feels that Wright's attitude to writing poetry (probably also to reading in the company of Vane Women, a 'collective' of women poets) is a whole-hearted giving of herself without self-censorship or false modesty -

I don't give a sous for um, a man who handles his love organ
But ah, a man who attends to her pudenda
Do you get my meaning?
I am really asking for an extra-terrestrial man

(Star Man, a version after Estrela Da Manhã by Mañuel Bandeira)

Wright's range is wide and her book is altogether a stimulating, enjoyable read. The range includes poems which I find 'special' — original, a lovely naturalistic flow, a pure, intense, poetic quality:

Here in the white house
in the white rooms
in the stripped down
bones of the place
there is a white so white
at first it hurts then soothes
clean as a pebble.

(Heartsease)

There is a moment
when the sugar pinks of afternoon
spun almost out of existence
gleam brittle bright

when evening's grey skirt
swirls and rustles
a pearl bloom on its silk

(My Father Dying)

Rising early and walking in the garden
I slip off my shoes. The lawn's a cold plunge.
The soles of my feet wake up.

(Zen Walking)

My flashlight picks him out
among the pitchers of water hyacinth
serenading mournfully
forget-me-not, an open-throated
aria.

(Toad)

This is not only 'fine writing' but some of these poems are many layered. For example, My Father Dying, which is subtitled after Untitled, 1969 by Mark Rothko, leads up through fine gradations of colour / feeling to the moment of death

he confronts us with this moment
of stillness, a canvas vast as
the pathways of the mind

and this lie, as though there is
a possibility of pink,
grey receding to an ash speck

whereas you slip so imperceptibly
from pink to mauve
a gradual suffusion of grey

your lips a no-man's land
plumb exit line
from flesh to spirit

that you have already seeped
into the masked-off edge
of white surrender

before I realise

Review by Dilys Wood


Copyright © 2004 Arrowhead Press
Last modified: March 28th 2005