Instead, Let us Say
150 x 210mm
Neil Leadbeater reviews "Instead, Let Us Say" [Extract from writeoutloud.net, March 2020)
The 25 poems in this collection offer up a compassionate take on daily life with all its fleeting emotions: a father and son walking along the water’s edge, reflections on looking at a memorial spoon dated 1664, thoughts at the scene of a fatal road accident, finding meanings in foreign parts, and a meditation on the colour orange.
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The opening poem ‘Clout,’ is a tightly-compacted synthesis of working class life. In it, Gorman makes a play on the title by revealing it in its varied meanings as a noun (a piece of cloth, a lump of coal) and as a verb (to cuff, hit, strike with force). All are implied in this poem about a miner’s wife and her relationship with her husband. The poem lives up to its title by exuding an authority all of its own.
The title of her collection is intriguing. It reads like three words lifted from a sentence that leaves us with questions at either end. It may be that a solution is to be found in ‘Portrait in the Museum’ where that incomplete sentence might read something like this: ‘instead of thinking the worst, let’s put a positive spin on things’. Looking at a portrait of an unknown lady by Eden Upton Eddis, Gorman writes:
If I knew your name
I could Google everything,
give this bright, young you
some dark milestones –
the creditor’s bite, nursery
fevers, the date you died.
Instead, let us say you were happy.
That you liked Verdi, Tennyson,
the scent of lilies, plum jam…
Let us say the lines to come
around your eyes will be
the footprints of your laughter.
This fine poem, in which Gorman draws her own portrait of what she sees, is a good example of her work. ...
Wendy Klein reviews Instead, Let Us Say: (Extract from thehighwindowpress.com.)
Dawn Gorman has much to say and says it more eloquently in this slender volume of 27 poems than poets in many collections I have picked up recently. I read the book through twice in one sitting: pithy, moving, tightly compacted poems with a strong build-up of suspense and a real sense of urgency. From the opening poem you know you are in the hands of a poet who is highly skilled in the use language. The ‘clout’ (p.1) of the title has three meanings, a lump, a blow, and a cloth for cleaning. All are implied in this piece about a miner’s wife: the clout that could be a lump of coal, the clout that she anticipates as
…she waits for a square
of canteen treacle tart
sneaked in his snap tin,
the weekend’s stagger,
the reek and the clout.
and in her apron pocket, a polish rag
is a light for the dark of it.
A relationship and a culture is summed up in 4 stanzas, 28 lines, setting the tone of this bijou collection where mothering, ‘a bantle of babies’ begins the 4th and last stanza. ‘Clout’ elides, swift and smooth, into the second poem, an ekphrastic piece after the sculpture ‘Interaction’ by the metal sculptor, Alex Relph. Here the poet imagines the ‘angles of gold’ as elbows and knees of a nine-month foetus:
unexpected points against softness,
nothing quite lined up,
just small gestures of touch between
your double helix
Motherhood reappears as the poet hears Alice Oswald read from her collection ‘Memorial’, and another recurrent theme of threat/menace creeps in:
The loss of Greece’s best loved sons,
is on the poet’s tongue,
a belated honouring,
the reading by heart from inner pages
unfaltering as the tide of death.
The poems continue to haunt Gorman:
I lie on the side of the bed you don’t sleep on
and listen to you running
from those arrows through the night,
legs twitching like they did
before you were born
kicking my motherhood
into gear. (‘On Hearing Alice Oswald Read Memorial’, p.5).
The subtle build-up of suspense is a core skill of Dawn Gorman. Almost every poem begins with a sense that the poet could take you anywhere ‘This is the blood of me;’ (Clout), p. 1. ‘Plague gulped us down that year; (‘Memorial Spoon, 1664’). ‘A sunset rip in the sky out-reds the Tesco sign’ (‘The Final Word’, p.18), and look at that crafty verb: ‘out-reds’!
That loss is hard-wired into relationship, whether between parent and child, lovers or other, is also a constant in these poems, creating a kinetic arc between love and death. The build-up of suspense edges toward a sort of petite mort in both usages of the phrase – the joy and the sadness, as it reaches each poem ending. Indeed, this poet can make a graveyard erotic where gates ‘moan when touched’ and ‘Ivied head stones / lie back, mouth their words / to the sun…’ (‘Old Baptist Graveyard, Mid-May’, p.15)....'
Instead, Let us Say is Dawn Gorman’s third pamphlet, published by Dempsey & Windle following her achievement of first place in the Brian Dempsey Memorial Pamphlet Competition in 2019. Released in September 2019 it is available from Dawn herself at readings, from this page, from AmazonEU and AmazonUK and to order from Waterstones, Five Leaves Bookshop (Nottingham), Blackwell's Bookshop (Oxford) and other independent booksellers.
Dawn Gorman is a freelance editor, reviewer and poetry workshop leader. She devises and runs community arts events, including the popular poetry reading series Words & Ears in Bradford on Avon, and works with poetry with the elderly and young people, with a particular interest in aural history. She collaborates widely with artists, musicians, photographers, film-makers and other writers: she has twice been a poet-in-residence at Edinburgh Fringe in collaboration with ceramicist Liz Watts, and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, together with 250 schoolchildren, wrote a symphony based on one of her poems; the overture, devised as a film poem, appeared at Cannes Short Film Festival.
Her pamphlet This Meeting of Tracks was published in New York in the four-poet book Mend & Hone, which was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Her work has appeared in various anthologies, including: DE4 | A1 (Templar Poetry, 2016); The Book of Love & Loss (Belgrave Press, 2014); Salt on the Wind (Elephantsfootprint, 2015) and From Palette to Pen (The Holburne Museum, 2016). It has also appeared in journals including Poetry Ireland Review, Iota, Magma, The Rialto, The Interpreter’s House, Butcher’s Dog, Anima and Under the Radar, and on-line in And Other Poems and The Mary Evans Picture Library.
This Meeting of Tracks
Looking for gods
Praise for Dawn Gorman:
“Dawn… writes with brilliant deliberation and mature artistry… [and] paints vivid, haunting pictures full of intense feeling. Her poems are about watching, seeing things, and seeing more than the things seen. Her work is warm and full of color – nature is color for her – and there are hints of a saucy sense of humor.”
Libby Maxey, on This Meeting of Tracks (Toadlily Press, New York, 2013) in Mom Egg Review (US) 2014.
At the core of [Dawn Gorman’s] work is a quality of instinctive tenderness and human dimension all-too rare in these rehearsed and combative times. That this is wedded to real poetic wherewithal is all-the-more impressive. Hers is a sharp-eyed and confident poetry, hard-won from those insights and complicated moments from which it is drawn. Never does it overstay a welcome nor fail to write itself hard and clear about what most counts.
Dawn will be reading from "Instead, let Us Say" in Bath, Sheffield, Frome and other venues in 2019 and 2020. Details on her website, here: http://www.dawngorman.co.uk/events_perform.php?id=59
'Instead, Let Us Say' can be bought from Dawn, on amazon.co.uk and on this site