Gill McEvoy The First Telling, Happenstance Press

Gill McEvoy’s new Happenstance pamphlet The First Telling is a stunning achievement, dealing candidly with the aftermath of rape. We McEvoy fans have come to expect such courage and ambition from Gill whose clear eyes have never shied away from anything, however painful or difficult: early bereavement, her own mortality. Beautifully crafted and carefully measured these poems give you visceral shock after shock.
I think of Gill asa friend and asa teacher: all her work is intructive. I have always admired the way Gill McEvoy uses nature as a vehicle to express lacerating truths, as in this short haiku-like poem:
cruises the night woods

mouse stops to sniff blood

clutch of claws
mouse is hurtled
to the moon

See what I mean? No, there is no full stop. And oh, none of the titles are in bold either. It all looks like a photograph in developing fluid, just coming through.

The word ‘telling’ in the title carries so many layers of meaning and indeed, becomes ritualistic for the book is punctuated with several poems of Telling (all having initial capitals in every word while the others have only an initial capital), the seventh one ending with ‘No words’, suggesting that there may need to be yet more.

The narrator’s voice, nuanced with pain, fear and resolve, is what comes across for me, the hope at the end, the doubt bravely expressed but confronted head-on. We are taken stage by stage through a healing process whereby nature seems to both reflect the trauma as well as provide solace. Here is another one of my favourites:
I go home through the park

via the middle path
away from the trees.

Burst of song. A thrush.
I stop.
I’m back in the woods.
That shadow/thatshadow
Me falling/mefalling.
All over again. All over
again. Again. Stuff.

The bird singing.

Are you alright, love?
a woman pushing a buggy stops for me.
I wipe my face on my sleeve.
I’m OK.

It’s only a thrush.
It’s only a bird.

I admire the studied repeats, the line endings, the sheer craft and courage of all these poems. She uses the white space to give tone, giving us sparse detail and leaving open what is not sayable.

This is a typically beautiful Happenstance publication with lovely paper and endpapers and a very understated cover that belies the explosive contents. A snip at £4.00!


About Rebecca Gethin

Rebecca Gethin is a poet and a novelist. Cinnamon Press published her third collection, All the Time in the World in 2017. Another pamphlet is forthcoming with Three Drops Press. Her second novel, What the horses heard, was published by Cinnamon Press in May 2014. Her second poetry collection - A Handful of Water - was published by Cinnamon in 2013. Her first - River is the Plural of Rain - was published by Oversteps Books in 2009. Her novel Liar Dice won the Cinnamon Press Novel Writing Award in 2010 and was published in 2011. She lives on Dartmoor and writes occasional pieces about wildlife and nature. Her poems appear in a variety of poetry magazines and in several anthologies.
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8 Responses to Gill McEvoy The First Telling, Happenstance Press

  1. E.E. Nobbs says:

    Excellent review-post, Becky – thanks for the examples you give of Gill’s poems & your commentary. I keep thinking about that mouse being hurtled to the moon!

  2. Glad to read this – I must get this pamphlet – you’ve spurred me on. In all of Gill’s poems I have read she always takes me with her in a way no other poet does. Very brave – i just found myself walking that middle path with her. Thanks.

  3. I also had Gill’s phamphlet on my ‘to read’ list so thank you for featuring it. I like her understated approach.

  4. Gill McEvoy says:

    Dear Becky, thank you so much for this. I truly value everything you’ve said and am quite humbled by your enthusiasm.

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