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Steve Spence

“Chokey” by Rosy Carrick, pub.  Burning Eye Books .  67 pages   £9.99

The preface to this collection is an extract from The Wind in the Willows, a passage which subverts the overall message of the novel and forces you to look at things anew. Rosy Carrick’s poetry is like this, in the sense that the perceptions are skewed and at a tangent from what we might consider to be ‘normal’. She’s a new name to me and I discovered her work via an Apples and Snakes reading where her performance was powerful and truly mesmerising. How does this translate to the page and vice-versa perhaps? Certainly the performance worked as such and the skill of the poet’s delivery and its impact represented a large part of the meaning.

These are poems which are visceral and where you’re not always certain about what’s going on. The title, a slang term for prison, relates to at least one of the poems in a direct fashion and there’s also a link to Roald Dahl’s novel Matilda, which may have a slightly different context. Carrick’s interests are certainly catholic as she has a liking for the bodybuilding of Arnold Schwarzenegger as well as having a PhD on Mayakovsky and an intriguing interest in twix bars, the latter almost appearing as a motif in her work.

These are raw poems about love and about sex, about politics and about living on the edge and coming through relatively unscathed, I guess. There’s a lot of anxiety here, a suggestion of self-harm which slips over into ‘transgressive behaviour’ which may or may not be autobiographical, of course.
There’s an inner voice, self-questioning and self-critical, aware of the demons that plague sleep but up-front ‘confessional’, an emotional directness which even while retaining a degree of obliqueness, remains open, an aspect which comes across even more powerfully in performance of course. Take this section from the poem ‘Time Machine’:

          It’s no lie
          to say that good can come from bad
          if you work at it forcefully
          I remind myself often
          how now
          I am powerful,
          now I am safe,
          but you know sometimes when you sit at your desk,
          surrounded by your skills,
          and despite it all
          extremely alone –
          a poem for a play you know
          you’re too afraid to act in
          and regressing so stupidly teenage,
          the forearm begging for a sliver of broken glass
          so it can cry the way it needs to,
          bitter second to the rubber band
          that flocks up your skin like wallpaper,
          that puts you
          nose to nose
          with your terrible truth –

          and you are tired
          of the injustice
          of the energy
          that you need to produce
          just to be pushing always forwards,
          to keep you from circling back there.

Some of these poems have the feel of a surrealist’s dream, as in ‘Ferroenquinology’ where the juxtapositions are strange and where trainspotting has multiple meanings, a reference to the film for sure, but also to the ‘harmless’ activity of trainspotting: ‘The silence made my clothes fall off, / a tortoise in my chest, / and he said finally: / But what about my almost crippling fondness for machinery?’ There’s the sense of a story being told, almost in the guise of a crime thriller, an absurd mix of sexual desire, dark imaginings, visceral description and ….. trainspotting.

The final poem, a short piece, entitled ‘Red’ and having the inscription By Rosy Leaver at its base, is unexpected and quite moving. It appears to have been written by a much younger person, presumably the author herself and suggests a sort of innocence/experience dichotomy though I may be reading too much into this. I found these poems puzzling, at times disturbing and I’m still thinking about the performance at Apples and Snakes and the relation between performed poetry and the written word.



Copyright © Steve Spence, 2018