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From the instinctive communicative energy of the passionate child who scribble(s) on each page, to the mature scrutiny of the vernacular through a kaleidoscope (that) will not alter / its ever-changing / view, Strafford's poems offer precise explorations of life in high definition. Ideas and phrases spark surprising – sometimes shocking – relays, probing the spaces around experience, their forms precisely tuned to their restless exploration.
I am, writes Strafford, perpetually waiting for a thought so passionate and alive / it has an architecture of its own. On the evidence of this mercurial collection, she rarely has to wait long. From a toad heard in the darkness, to the click of a high-heeled shoe, to the knees of grown-ups seen from beneath a card table, each image – pulsing with resonance and reflection – is palpably, viscerally alive. This is everyday language in flux, the place where words go / after they are spoken, and Strafford doesn’t let a single one escape.
Leeds Trinity University, 2017
Strafford’s ability with language is impressive. Her training in visual arts informs her lexical choices; she ‘sculpts’ (and re-sculpts) a kiss; her archetypal woman yearns for ‘a thought so passionate and alive/it has an architecture of its own.’ Limbs are ‘pretzled’. Her ‘rules gauging time/inch by inch’ recalls Joni Mitchell’s Come in from the Cold: ‘Back in 1957/we had to dance a foot apart/And they hawk-eyed us from the sidelines/Holding their rulers without a heart.’ Indeed, in a similar way to her near contemporary, she captures certain periods of recent history with a light but firm touch. Strafford has a highly mature sense of how to ‘show’ not ‘tell’ which leaves spaces in her poetry for the reader to reflect and engage. She sees the sensual possibilities in the most mundane of events and objects, and this gives her writing great vigour. So in her work, men may be ‘empty overcoats’, a miscarried child a thread snapped short, and the swirls of wood grain on the gym floor remind her of female anatomy.
In her subject matter, she is fearless and frank, sharing a child’s voyeuristic view of a sometimes disturbing adult world, inviting you to collude with teenage experimentation, and portraying the perennial topics of love and loss with a fresh and quirky slant. Sometimes the world she shares is troubling and poses difficult questions, but she never lapses into cliché or sentimentality; she is witty and irreverent. She writes about her ‘sisters’ Patti McGhee, Dorette and Christina in a confiding but never saccharine way. Her man is ‘Mr Moon’, not some nimby with a sixpack, and he will see off the competition. There is sharp humour; you want to meet the woman who is waiting ‘for Red Riding Hood/to wink at the wolf.’
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