Review: Dream Catcher 43

This is the proof of my review of Alison Lock’s Lure and Sarah Wragg’s Ghost Walk, published in Dream Catcher 43. The issue is now available to order.

Alison Lock, Lure. Cleckheaton: Calder Valley Poetry, 2020. ISBN: 978-1-9160387-6-9

Alison Lock’s Lure is a long, pamphlet-length poem, that narrates the speaker’s return to a Yorkshire millpond: the site of a dramatic, near-fatal fall. The pamphlet opens with the ‘still water’ which ‘holds our secrets in silt’ (5), and closes by returning again to this water, cycling with the seasons.

The poem is in three parts. The first is the fall: a green world of water and weed, where words are lost in mud; blood becomes water; bone becomes rock. The transition between this world, of the ‘fallen’; and the subsequent world, of rescue and hospitalisation, is captured powerfully in a single line: ‘As I am cut from my wet skin, pondweed drips, / feathers lift in flight, a flurry of white’ (22). And so we are jolted, from green life, into the second ‘world’: a contrasting, artificial landscape of white walls and equipment. Sticks, braces, a body ‘log-rolled’ (22): the fragile physical body, dependent.

The final part of poem brings us full circle. The speaker collects healing herbs and returns to the site of the fall where ‘the edge of the pond is slippery again’ (35). This time, however, the heather gives the speaker, and the reader, ‘a handle on life’ (35). This is a pamphlet of transformation: of finding strength in vulnerability; of discovering powerful new perspectives through accepting the limits of the body.

Sarah Wragg Ghost Walk. Clevedon: Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2020. ISBN: 978-1-913499-42-6

Every poem in Sarah Wragg’s pamphlet of ghosts offers a unique encounter with a lost life. Although we meet some of the traditional ghosts we might expect on a ghost walk: highwaymen and medieval nuns; there are also moving encounters with individuals whose lives have been lost through poverty, inequality and gendered violence.

There are surprising ghosts; spirits taking revenge; the ghosts of animals and insects. The ghost in ‘Hertford Job Centre’, who did not die there; the astronaut; the murdered wife who haunts vicious men. Many of the poems attest to the lives of people who have been written out of official stories, and in turn, ‘the women toast the murdered wife’ (16).

There is sadness and grief in the pamphlet, but also humour: these are not anonymous hauntings but each recovers an individual life. Wragg’s poems subvert our expectations, offering us the chance to meet with individuals from the past, and to reconsider what we know of our present in light of these encounters. 

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