Skip to main content

Guest Review: Lockton On Pollard


Katherine Lockton reviews
by Clare Pollard

Clare Pollard’s fourth collection Changeling takes on myths and monsters and places them in the world of CCTV, Youtube, and Heat in order to tackle more serious subjects such as world politics, child famine and gangs. This collection moves away from the confessional tone which marked Pollard’s earlier writing towards a more thematic and political writing. Pollard takes us on a journey where we must “hang on tight and not let go and not let go.”  A master of rhythm, Pollard manipulates lines by slowing them down or increasing their pace as a means of highlighting and making more serious points easier to digest.

One of the aspects that makes this collection stand out from Pollard’s earlier works is her ability to ask important questions in a subtle yet direct way. She doesn’t preach her own political views but rather opens ideas up for discussion. As she points out “if wrong feels right, then what are you sir?.” She develops this idea of wrong versus right in ‘Two Ravens’ where she explores the idea that if something is good then the opposite must be bad; “if they’re bad she’s good” and “if she’s bad we’re good.” The chiasmus here, as in other poems in this collection, is used to build up and emphasise important ideas and questions.

Pollard is not afraid to ask serious questions, neither is she shy of sharing her own political views. Perhaps the best example of this is ‘Pendle’ where she write in the second person as a means of personalising the issue so we care more.  She does not prescribe us political morphine, she gives us the option of taking poetic Calpol instead. She does this by softening up and weaving the most serious points within the fabric of her poems:

When your children curdle like milk & turn one by one to clay dolls,
and your husband’s fledgling-weak & you’re a good Christian woman,
then someone is to blame.

This is hidden amongst lines such as “when you dream of a woman fucking goats” and “when you imagine her face yoked in a bridle” not because Pollard is scared  but because the combination makes the journey both an entertainment and interrogation.

This is not to say that Pollard is not direct in tackling world politics, as we can see in ‘30th’ where she tells us that “we are so lucky and disgusting and we will pay for this tomorrow.”

Another way Pollard uses entertainment to explore serious  issues is ‘Tam Lin’s Wife’ where myth is adopted and  reinterpreted so that love surviving and withstanding change is used to include illness in the last stanza:

Dear Husband, all those things I prize in you –
your beauty, kindness, laugh –
are stripped off one by one
but even with them gone
my boy stares out from stricken shapes,
and love has no conditions. None.

This  last stanza is emblematic of Pollard’s compact, rhythmical writing through out the book.

Pollard is at her best though when she combines powerful imagery and rhythm as in ‘The Skulls of Dalston.’ It is not often that a poet presents the more demanding of their work at readings, often opting for poems that are crowd pleasers and little else. Pollard though chose to read some of her strongest pieces at her launch - including ‘The Skulls of Dalston” - arguably the best poem in the collection, which explores gang culture on a journey through the streets of East London.

The poem’s strength is obvious from the first few lines where we learn of “sherbert death-heads, jack o’lanterns, acme eyeballs pinging in eye-caves, tombstone teeth in bubblegums.” Pollard takes an image, compares it to something else, develops it and just before we are tired of it moves on to another one that is in the same world. She does this in a subtle, skillful way which shows she is a master manipulator of  words.
This poem further develops the idea of differencences addressed earlier in her work, but here it is explored through the use of synonyms, which although similar in essence are different:

If I’m a blank, then he’s a void,
if I’m the scum, then he’s the dregs,
if I’m a ghost then he’s a shadow,
if I’m pigeon-shit then he’s a crow.

This idea is used to show just how different the gang world is to ours so that even when on the same street “we are not on the same street.”  A real accomplishment of this poem is the way Pollard manipulates pace and imagery as it takes on the gang members’ language; “Murder Dem Pussies.”  It leaves us where we began the journey, at home, but somehow our home has changed “so it’s best not to look…..We do not look.” 

 Katherine Lockton has published poetry in magazines such as Magma and Rising, online at whippersnapper press, Poetry 24 and Eyewear and read her poetry live on BCB radio. 
2 comments

Popular posts from this blog

AMERICA PSYCHO

According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…

DANGER, MAN

Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…

OSCAR SMOSHCAR

The Oscars - Academy Awards officially - were once huge cultural events - in 1975, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Shirley MacLaineandBob Hope co-hosted, for example - and Best Picture noms included The Conversation and Chinatown. Godfather Part 2 won. Last two years, movies titled Birdman and Spotlight won, and the hosts and those films are retrospectively minor, trifling. This year, some important, resonant films are up for consideration - including Hidden Figures and Moonlight, two favourites of this blog. Viola Davis and Denzel Washington will hopefully win for their sterling performances in Fences. However, La La Land - the most superficial and empty Best Picture contender since Gigi in 1959 (which beat Vertigo) - could smite all comers, and render this year's awards historically trivial, even idiotic.

The Oscars often opt for safe, optimistic films, or safe, pessimistic films, that are usually about white men (less often, white women) finding their path to doing the right thin…