A bit later than normal but the new Featured Writer is Valerie Morton, an old friend of mine from early days on Bill Greenwell’s Poetry Clinic. Handprints is Valerie’s second collection with the energetic and dynamic Indigo Dream Publishing which is available here. I was fascinated to learn that, as a child, Valerie’s reward for finishing her homework was to have poetry read to her by her mother. How amazing is that? What a gift Valerie received from her mother.
I really loved her first short collection, Mango Tree, for its enigmatic and delicate qualities. Those poems were set in India. Handprints is a fabulous follow-up and has a wider scope, covering a range of times and places. Valerie gives nothing away and in all her poems you are left with a sense there is much more than meets the eye. Accomplished and polished these poems shine like gems you can’t quite get hold of and the more you see their glimmers the more fascinating they become. Here is love, anger, reconciliation, fear, disappointment, sorrow: big events that take place in the small moments of everyday life. The personal and the universal are balanced perfectly in every poem. They appear almsot effortless but such apparent simplicity is hard-won.
Here is one of my favourites for its sensory detail and for the chill that runs down my spine:
You’ll have to go outside; your father’s in the bath
Only need took me
through the green door, away
from the apple-pie kitchen
to a porch trellised by spiders.
Goosebumps rose on my skin
and mice scattered under
the wavering light of my torch.
Stray cats tapped across the roof
and from the coal-hole
came faint echoes of men
buried in airless places,
as lamps faded on sooted
faces. What I dreaded most
was the chain, its grab-handle
like a hanged man swinging
in the draught, snaring
my feet in shadows
on a cold floor, banging
on hollow walls like Marley’s
ghost pleading to be set free.
Bill Greenwell wrote of her poems, ‘These little incidents and images are rarely explained, so they have a special, extra force. This might be the writer’s life. By the end of Handprints it will be yours as well.”
I agree with him. Beautifully put, Bill.