By Clare Shaw
Paperback £7.95 (Bloodaxe Books)
This set of poems by Clare Shaw is rich, deep and diverse. They talk
about childhood’s fun and pain, about sorrow for a dead love affair,
about the brutality inflicted on children. There are train journeys, both
comical and fraught, and descriptions of West Yorkshire’s moors’
Clare’s original observation and vivid images give the reader
shocks of horror, revelation or delight.
“Your face was a door slammed hard”: “My chest was
a jar full of fishes that couldn’t get air”. “Exposed,
the nerves were a squabble of first violins.”
One poem is for a bus shelter: you end up admiring it as, despite being
“treated to the things that other lives spit out…the sad pink
skins of condoms…dog shit, sick”, the bus shelter still stands
there triumphant, proud and useful.
“Killing it” describes the end of a relationship, where the
love, a living thing, is destroyed by degrees….”how we shook
it: the small bones of its skull tinkled like mirrors;/ its eyes were
robotic with horror”. It breaks your heart.
“Foreign Tastes” is hilarious: depicting a friend’s
house when they were children: ”a warm aquarium gargled in the corner/
and Shirley Bassey sang loud enough to break a law.”
Some poems are very painful, others quite bleak, but she also celebrates
“our ability to care for each other,/ to stand with each other…”
and in “Gratitude” is grateful for the small, simple things
in life, “for the helpful kettle/ and the sheets growing stiff on
the line:”…”most of all / grateful that you survived”…
This collection is obviously intensely personal, and Clare courageously
exposes her raw feelings and harsh experiences. However, this work is
not wallowing in misery; instead it is moving, and sometimes laugh out
I recommend this book not just to poetry lovers, but to all who value
writing that is truthful and universal.
Clare Shaw will be appearing with Grace Nichols and Soul Purpose as part
of the on Wednesday 16th May 2007 at 8pm at the Rodewald Suite,
Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, Hope Street. Tickets £8/£5 from
the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall box office on 0151 709 3789.