“a journey through bolts and latches”

The Only Reason For Time, Fiona Moore, £4, HappenStance
reviewed by Kathrine Sowerby

fiona moore reason for time
The Only Reason For Time, Fiona Moore’s first collection published by HappenStance, includes poems responding to the death of her partner several years ago. Fresh from hearing Chris Agee read from his collection, Next to Nothing, written in the years following his daughter’s death, I came to this collection loaded with points of reference: both objective (how will she write about grief?) and subjective (do I feel like reading about death today?).

So, I met the opening lines of the first poem ‘Postcard’ with a sense of relief – “Three days, and already I could write/a dissertation on the fastenings of gates.” Lovely. And curious too, we have a sense of time, of opening and closing and a sense of weight and exploration. The rest of the poem takes us on a journey through bolts and latches, “Each one a puzzle, each to be handled and worked on.” Until we are out in the open with “sheep and meadow flowers” and the poem signs off “With love.”

These twists and turns run through the collection. In some poems – ‘Getting Up at Six’, ‘The Shirt’ – there are intimate, potent memories of clothing and habits and ‘Outside Gramsci’s House’ starts with a photograph, “One look and I’m with you, standing on the wet pavement/full of a shared hour spent looking and reading”, reflections contrasted by the urgency of ‘On Dunwich Beach’: “I kick hard, breathing for you//through strands of hair…The drab land calls, the sea/spits me out – numb, dripping salt, living for you.”

Others zoom out asking broad and specific questions like ‘Hunger’, which explores the relationship between eating and death. Opening with “One way to dispose of a corpse is to eat it// The skeleton lies on my plate, fish-perfect, scavenger food./ It reminds me of the last time we ate mackerel together.” It turns on the fourth stanza, away from a funeral and “death’s nursery food”, and repeats the first three stanzas in reverse, ending on the opening line.

One thing about a partially themed collection is that the poems that are not themed stand out for that reason alone. Like new characters entering a plot midway, they take some getting used to. But the poems that hit hardest give us the variations and volumes of grief, the exposure and the vacuum (‘Sink Drain’ and ‘The Distal Point’), and the inevitability of death, offered with warmth in the final poem ‘To The Reader’ with its evocative first and last lines, a feature of this collection – “You are the fire around which your ghosts are talking//…//From time to time one of them reaches for more/wood, and throws it on the fire. Your flames leap up.”

Kathrine Sowerby

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