'How to Punctuate a Silence'
Sam Smith reviews 'How to Punctuate a Silence' in The Journal (#62, 2021
There is much to admire and appreciate about this gentle, understated collection. It brims with feeling, telling of family life, loss, sorrow, all the pain and upset that accompanies human existence, and often its elegant, restrained use of language to describe something dreadful or momentous found me fighting back tears. As in Treading Lightly, where despair is banished, and we learn of it through a glimpse of someone dancing:
"Remember how you said you couldn’t dance.... You said you couldn’t bear to partner life you’d trodden on its toes enough
and yet some silent chord restored your hope.
You said you couldn’t dance and then, you did."
Magnificent. She manages it again in One Word. We aren’t allowed to hear the word, for she chooses to reject it, but it’s one she didn’t want, one that makes her wonder when she’ll be reduced to “a faded face in a frame”.
"his word against mine. My word is hope."
The quiet economy of those few simple words, still saying more than you can stand to hear.
The title poem gives punctuation marks personalities, along with tips on how to work with their foibles and get the best from them, as well as the words they support or represent:
"use question marks for what’s not being said, asterisks
for what can’t be said, or shouldn’t have been said at all."
Claudia Court has a real talent for representing the way people speak, but also, choose not to speak, to each other, as well as themselves. The silences of this book are compelling, original, eloquent, and always audible.
‘Claudia Court addresses the subjects of love, loss and illness with sensitivity and wit. Her empathy is apparent in poems about others’ problems and in tender portraits of her family that don’t gloss over difficulties. Whether in free verse, syllabics, haiku or rhyme, her poetry impresses with its honesty, clarity and economy; ‘words recognise my hurt, they soothe me’, she writes, and her words do the same for us.’
— Stephen Claughton
‘How can words clothe the abyss of silence and comfort us in times of need? In her poetry Court uses words, by turns witty and poignant, that weave together the experience of love and loss, pain and pleasure, ordinary and extraordinary moments. Often in life, as Eliot says, we have the experience but miss the meaning; holding onto a strong cord of hope Court’s poems help us find our way through the labyrinth of life.’
— Colin Pink
‘Claudia Court is a striking new voice – lyrical, spare, mysterious, presenting richly-crafted poems informed by clarity and feeling.’
— Katherine Gallagher
‘The interplay between silence and the power of words and how both are equal partners strikes a wonderful balance in Claudia Court’s debut collection. Court is adept at the haiku, but every poem has the power of a haiku at its heart with words stripped back to communicate what is absolutely necessary to let the silence shine through and offer the power of meditation. These are unrushed poems that demand our attention through their quality of address, their clear-eyed look at life and for the silences that are as alive and as varied as the words which precede and follow in an
intricate and absorbing dance.’
— Lisa Kelly