This is a beautifully put-together chapbook filled with beguiling poems/texts which appear to combine found materials with non-sequiturs and aleatory work which is full of surprise and wit. You’ll never get bored reading this stuff.
There’s a sense of the hermetic about these pieces insofar as they feel self-enclosed and often generated by a thought, some vocabulary, an artwork (Hawkins is very influenced by visual art-forms) which then becomes the wandering focus of the whole. At the same time there are political references and nods to ‘the outside world’ which keep you very much on your toes.
in the paintings there are few signs of people
yet there is evidence of creation
in the towers and squares, the sun
being the centre of it
I am running into the distance
attached to shadow
afraid they will catch me
I hold up his baby daughter and smile at her laughter
movement clashes with stillness
journey with time
There’s an anxiety around the phrase ‘running into the distance / attached to shadow’ which is also beautifully poised and anyone remotely familiar with De Chirico’s work will pick up on the evocation as well as the wonderful balance of the lines.
did maisy meet gertrude stein
before she was born Maisy knew she would become great
she told her mother so
she composed her first poem in Crayola
a town of bright colour and scribbles
it was based on a poem
by a Portuguese writer her mummy read to her
I presume the ‘Maisy’ in the title refers to the Maisy in the children’s books and the reference to Stein suggests a level of wit and sophistication born out in the construction of the piece, aided by ‘a Portuguese’ writer who could be Pessoa even if this adds a degree of anachronism. It’s a delightful poem. Some writers would labour over the ingredients in such a composition, but I get the feeling with Hawkins that this comes together quite ‘naturally’ from a stock of associations, experience and reading which has matured over a long period. This theme is further explored in the following poem:
like lemons are lemons alike
unlike lemons were green, blue and even pink
the house was generic and in the Canadian town of Saskatoon,
ice-skating through the long winters
her teacher gave her a list of authors to read, a golden treasury,
copying passages from the german ideology and everyone talks
about the weather
and there in bright orange (a citrus theme) and custard yellow
was the sun, insistent, driving Maisy on like a big engine
it wasn’t long before she took up a paint brush and
people died in a series of squiggles
The closeness of ‘a golden treasury’ and ‘the german ideology’ made me smile, especially when followed by a reference to ‘the weather’ yet this is how it is, how things come together in a composition of this sort, everything feels so easy and familiar even when the components aren’t so obviously so. The final line is both charming and chilling. The earlier reference to ‘ice-skating’ has the feel of a colourful postcard and I’m reminded of Tom Raworth here in the quick-witted play and shifts in subject.
The cover image is an arresting one and the ‘back to front’ cover title is unexpected. I liked the exposition about the typefaces used as well, something that publishers used to do back in the day. This is a lovely little booklet, stapled and with a thick card cover, an artefact enclosing a neat array of poems, something to brighten your day.
Steve Spence 29th July 2022