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Tag Archives: Lucy Ingrams

Light-Fall by Lucy Ingrams (Flarestack Poets)

Lucy Ingrams poems in Tears in the Fence 72 impressed readers with their slowed down attentiveness to the moment and invigorating language use. I was thus thrilled to discover her Light-Fall pamphlet from 2019 and to find more of her mindful poetry.

The opening poem, ‘Swimmer’, where the title is the last two words, with ‘fall’ occupying the last line alone, is worth the price of the pamphlet alone. 

The poem, like the best of Ingrams work, recalls the poetry of Lee Harwood and Elizabeth Bishop and yet is distinctly her own. This emerges through her confident use of space, lineation and punctuation. Note her use of brackets, hyphens, space and counter voice, within a sonically rich low pitched delivery.  The poem, written in the living present, in the manner of Harwood’s sea poems, such as ‘Salt Water’, slows the reader’s attention down to each modulated movement within a wide-eyed focus. The narrator’s eye hovers on a series of physical objects, with slight movements in declining light, so that their actions combine to draw in the movements of sea, breeze and light. The layout, sound and sense combine to produce a balanced and clear-sighted focus. The key is that the poem remains in the variable and active present and eschews any extraneous commentary. 

   the is and will-be of its

the single source   of everything

air, its bubble   coast, its run-off – petrified

world’s counterweight.   its balance-tip

(cloud, the shadows of its rougher swells)

sorted   with that

                 and you   back-stroking

                 next    a flotsam speck    floating

                 only at its pleasure

Ingrams is at her best when she takes risks and moves beyond the rigidity of mainstream poetry to explore and engage the reader with a wide-eyed focus and attention to subtle movements and responses. She has a quiet and strong narrative voice. 

I enjoyed revisiting the poem, ‘Signs’, previously published in the Nine Arches Press, Primers Volume One (2015), with its attention to time, hesitancy and doubt through its spatial use, and controlled form.

And whether you loved me   loved me not

would come with a letter    come with you

would come    would come with some sign

of which there was no sign    yet

Here each movement and change of attention matters in the present. Such poems live, are alive, and are cut through fresh language with moments of 


red in the willow crowns    plum in the birch

patterns of gnats     looked for a language

larger than us     tremor of catkins

folds of a bud    for meaning like runes

harder than answers   length in the light

the over and over of wood pigeon music

Ingrams also registers time and its gradual movement from moment to moment in fading late, as one would expect from a poet concerned with being alive to the world and its surprises. ‘Blue Hour’, written in crisp couplets, ends ‘and I turn and my step in the wind-drop quiet / is a thread to tack night / to night.’ I love the precision of ‘wind-drop quiet’ and the dropping ‘to night’ on to the next line to register and emphasise time.

There are many other subtle, quite and well measured poems with slight changes of attention within a perceptual roundedness that suggests Ingrams is an emerging and accomplished poet to follow.

David Caddy 23rd November 2020

Primers: Volume One Selected by Kathryn Maris and Jane Commane (Nine Arches Press)

Primers: Volume One Selected by Kathryn Maris and Jane Commane (Nine Arches Press)

This collaboration between the Poetry School and Nine Arches Press to find new voices in poetry collects together work from four poets, two of whom work through language and two do not. I like the idea of showcasing new and emerging poets in one book.

Primers: Volume One features introductions to each featured poet.
This is poor practice unless what is written is critically substantiated, and does not serve to limit the potential reading experience. It is far better to let the poems speak for themselves. In this case, there are some excellent poems on display, and they do not need any of the crassness offered in the introductions.

Geraldine Clarkson, widely published in a range of poetry journals, winner of the Poetry London and Ambit competitions, the Ver Poets Prize, the Magma Editors Prize and the Anne Born Prize in 2015, is surely almost an established poet. Here she ‘converts unspecified grief, salvation and joy into exhilarating, whimsical music by way of her dynamic and transformative imagination.’ I am not sure that Clarkson’s work can be so pigeon holed, as several of her poems, such as, ‘Podcarp’, ‘Camelament’, and ‘a young woman undressed me and’ with their distinct narrative voices are from a completely different ethos and tradition of poetry:

and raw: muhuuhu muhuuhu ph ph hmmmhu hm
she touched my lip with a shapely thumb
shhh, don’t fret. her voice like jinxed june breezes
in lime leaves. and then. her voice like rills rushing over flint
and dazzling in sunlight. we’ll get you undressed and then
we’ll see to that. just a moment now. and still
she continues to undress me

Maureen Cullen’s use of variant Scots dialect allows her to begin to work through language. The narrative voices though offer a limited range of focus and attention and are too reliant upon lived experience to elevate them beyond childhood and family memoir. These low-key poems are under-realised and a missed opportunity to extend or transcend the tradition. Katie Griffiths’ poetry far from being ‘steely and unsettling’ does at least offer a more angular approach and are less mundane. Sadly, they are intent on telling the reader and leave little for the imagination. Lucy Ingrams’ poems have been more worked upon and offer much greater rewards. The opening poem, ‘Signs’ shakes and rattles with voices working through language:

through wearing them naked as gooseflesh
still and looked for a text to hook yours to
red in the willow crowns plum in the birch
patterns of gnats looked for a language

larger than us tremor of catkins

It is this working through that is so evident in the work of Ingrams and Clarkson that makes their work and this Primers a joy to read.

David Caddy 18th July 2016

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