Emma Lee considers two  rather contrasting collections by W D Jackson &  Rennie Parker

A Giotto Triptych
giottoW D Jacksoncandleshoe
Shoestring Press
ISBN 9781907356681
17pp £6

 

Candleshoe
Rennie Parker
Shoestring Press
ISBN 9781907356940
67pp £9

 

W D Jackson’s A Giotto Triptych begins with a sequence of eight poems drawn from Vasari’s chapter on Giotto in “Lives of the Artists” (1568).  These are arranged to work inwards from the outer wings to the middle panels, although, in fact, the poems are about the artist, not the paintings. This sequence serves as the opening of the third book in a series called “Then and Now”.In “Left Panel – Giotto and Forese da Rabatta”, Giotto meets his friend who is a lawyer who speaks first,

“Who’d ever guess you were the world’s best painter?”
Observing his friend’s snub nose, wide mouth, long jaw,
Looks good, smells strong, my father said,” said Giotto,
Who’d painted Judas as a bel signor:

“It’s what you do, not what you have that matters.
Wise judge and learned lawyer you may be,
My friend, but in those rags on that old pad-nag,
Who’d guess you even knew your ABC?

The observations and conversation are bland. Other poems show a touch of irony, but they too are written in rhyme that appears to drive the poems rather than being the initial exploratory pencil or chalk marks that are painted over and become invisible. Italics aren’t just used for quotations and foreign words but also for emphasis so that readers are guided by the text to see that it’s “have” that matters in the first line of the second quoted stanza and “you” that is important in the last line. Visually this makes the poems difficult to read, compounded by the traditional use of initial capitals. Perhaps the poems would be strengthened if read in context of the first two books but I found myself paying more attention to the structures of the poems than the content.

In contrast, Rennie Parker’s poems are firmly rooted in her native Lincolnshire and concern both people and landscape, e.g. in “The Silent Witness”

And the road narrows,
Twisting further inside –
A silence without knowing,
The grey ghost waiting
And the fear of staying, of going.

Her tone is conversational and welcoming, even when discussing friction between people who were country born and bred and people who have moved from towns and cities, in “Wild Haired and Dumpy, with Colours that Clashed, Her Daughter, eighteen, looked twelve”

We tried keeping chickens: it didn’t work.
The man who rented the land
Asked for it back. you know what he did?
Ornamental trees, those stubby ones,
He covered his seven acres in useless trees.
And what does it do?

I know the incomers’ gardens. Marigolds
Machine-punched into the floor at three inch intervals.

Rennie Parker’s poems also show compassion, an ear for dialogue and rhythm. She understands how people interact with and are affected by the landscape. It could be argued that her remit is parochial and domestic, but it is in these settings that people reveal their best and worse sides because they are less likely to be bound by the conventions of etiquette. Her choice of free verse allows her characters to speak uninhibited by formal structures and so her poems are less constricted than W D Jackson’s formal rhymes. Whilst Rennie Parker also uses initial capitals, these either fall at the beginning of a sentence or after a natural caesura so are not as intrusive.

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Emma Lee’s Mimicking a Snowdrop is forthcoming from Thynks Press and Yellow Torchlight and the Blues is available from Original Plus. She blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.com and is a blogger-reviewer for Simon and Schuster. She also reviews for The Journal, Elsewhere and Sabotage Review magazines.