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Possibly a Pomegranate by Alwyn Marriage (Palewell Press)

Possibly a Pomegranate by Alwyn Marriage (Palewell Press)

The pomegranate with its abundant red seeds provides a perfect motif for these poems which are subtitled ‘A Celebration of Womanhood’ – a theme which Alwyn Marriage explores across different cultures through memory, creativity, and myth.

The theme of fruit is a constant in the collection. The title poem offers the fascinating suggestion that it may have been a pomegranate that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden but I was mostly intrigued by the background etymology that shows how the word malum, in Latin, is synonymous with both evil and apple – a confusion perpetuated by artists ‘down the ages’ who have given ‘flesh to the mythical fruit’ and displayed it as an apple in all its ‘juicy plumpness’.

These are the key words – ‘juicy plumpness’ – which reference birth and motherhood in Possibly a Pomegranate where women offer ‘breasts to infants’ and ‘feel/their life force flow’ (‘Saturday’s Child’). In the poem ‘Skin’ an infant that is ‘firm, plump, soft,’ snuggles up close to the narrator who inhales the ‘sweetness’ of the baby with its ‘perfume of a fig that’s ripe for eating.’

Poems in this collection describe growth, decline and renewal not only in womanhood but also in nature and its effect on emotions and knowledge. The poet considers ‘the mystery of life’ by discovering ‘the green heart/of the woods’ (‘Field Trip’), an experience which becomes visionary and mystical:


-of air

            still when I am still

            moving when

            my body moves

            -of forest floor

            deep pile of leaves

            echoed here 

            in carpet, soft

            receptacle for feet

            -of this mysterious

            collection of particles

            translated into skin and bones,

            warm flesh and hair

            that’s open to everything

            that surrounds me,

            that is in me

            that is me

            breathing a world

            into existence

The aspect of Possibly a Pomegranate that most appeals to me is Alwyn Marriage’s skill in weaving and telling stories.  In the title poem she claims that ‘our oldest stories sometimes hold/more truth than history’ and emphasises ‘the creative mind/of generations’ that devise explanations ‘for the way things are’. Two narratives I particularly enjoy in the collection are ‘Finger four’ and ‘The clue lies in the lady’s toe’. The first is a memory of a teenage love, a song-like poem where the girl and Jimmy the young boy are singing while they are fishing and the hook on his line draws blood from the fourth finger of the girl’s left hand, her ‘ring’ finger, and this becomes ‘a faint reminder of a Scottish boy/who though he sang so sweetly on a sunny day,/failed to catch any fish, or me.’

The lady’s toe poem was written after seeing the bronze statue of a king and queen on a Scottish hillside and wondering about ‘the different texture of the metal on/the king’s right knee’ which is so smooth. The humorous conclusion to the poem comes in the final stanzas where a sheep, like a pilgrim kissing a statue of the virgin Mary, ‘sidles up to the impassive king/and meditatively rubs her rump/against his knee.’

Possibly a Pomegranate offers a wide range of tonal effects from the joyful to the poignant, the amusing to the profound. Throughout it is the observation of details, both quirky and everyday, that intrigue and fascinate – details as small as cherry stones uncovered amongst ‘flint and rubble’ in what was once a small town garden. Evidence, says the narrator, that ‘at least one person/on a number of occasions in summers long ago/sat in this garden spitting cherry stones.’

Alwyn Marriage has written a varied and enchanting collection here. It is finely produced by Palewell Press.

Mandy Pannett 25th October 2022

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