After a wee absence ( due to husband’s ill health and my feeling of being a rabbit dazzled by the headlights) my blog is back. Thank you if you are still there! Today I am featuring Wendy Pratt and her latest collection from Valley Press, Gifts the Mole Gave Me. You can see her poems on the Featured Writer page here. The book itself is beautifully produced… well, just look at the cover…
For me, this lovely book throws light from surprising angles on to poetry itself: by taking metaphors offered by rain, breaking glass, moles, starlings, stone walls (and too many others to mention) Wendy Pratt imbues her subject matter with the everyday magic of love. A lot of this book is about love, specifically of a child who died very tragically, but also of mothers, of Bridlington and Scarborough and the people there, of nature and of all the many layers of living:
“…we pack our ordinary life into
our ordinary car, drive home
to arguments about bedtime,
hot bath, light sleep,
a Beatrix Potter bedroom,
drawers full of clothes
you still might wear.”
That strategically placed word “might” is devastating. So simply but so effectively done. Wendy Pratt knows how to write about grief as she is practised in it. She never shrinks from its presence in her life. And it doesn’t ever fade away as we learn in Learning to Cry Quietly.
“…..We learn to cry quietly,
in bathrooms and cars, so they don’t ask
when we’ll be trying again.”
There’s a confident assuredness in the structures and forms in the poems that takes her from the rhyming couplets of The Art of Breaking Glass to the poignant and grief-filled repeats and echoes of Stones. We feel safe in her hands because sometimes we have to search for the grief: it’s never in your face. A single word might open up a whole new perspective.
The soundscapes of these poems make them seem effortless but are composed and measured. From Heart/Tide:
“In the dark, a tide pulls blood
through the needle-eye
of a heart valve, blueing the skin
from beneath. We are nothing but fluid….”
Many of the poems touch on loss but they are vibrantly alive and full of feeling. She doesn’t deal in sentimentality or in abstracts because everything to her seems connected. It’s part of her poetry’s beauty and their great love of ordinariness. In I Wear My Madness Like a Locket
inside the case turns
without my knowledge,
pushes hurt into my chest like a stake.
In the title poem Gifts the Mole Gave Me, the poet ‘picks treasures out’ and it seems to me the mole has gifts also for us, the readers of this fine collection.
This is Wendy Pratt’s fourth collection. Prolebooks recognised her talent early on and published her first in 2011, Nan Hardwicke Turns into a Hare followed by Museum Pieces. in 2014. Flarestack published Lapstrake in 2015. A little bird told me another one is being edited. This is an astonishing output even from a committed professional. There’ll be a Collected within the next decade!
Abegail Morley wrote the foreword to Museum Pieces: “At the heart of the collection, she offers grace and pain in equal measures – the reader never feels overwhelmed or overburdened, the poet has total control. We linger somewhere between darkness and light, slightly troubled, but in the hands of a skilful poet whose voice is strong, crisp and lucid.”
Wendy Pratt is now running on-line poetry courses which I heartily recommend for her (daily) prompts are stimulating and her support is nothing but encouraging. You can find info here. There will be another in Oct.