London Grip Poetry Review – Karen Izod

Poetry review – WHILE THERE IS HOPE: Carla Scarano D’Antonio reviews a prize-winning chapbook by Karen Izod

While There Is Hope
Karen Izod
Coast to Coast to Coast 2022
Limited edition of 30  (now sold out)

This elegant, limited-edition winner of the Coast to Coast to Coast Fourth Poetry Prize 2021 by Karen Izod features twelve poems that explore the period of the pandemic and how hope helped people hold on despite the risk of giving up. Human frailty and vulnerability are at the centre of the exploration in a world that seems to be trapped in a stand-by situation, waiting for an imminent disaster. Change for the worse looms and a sense of confusion pervades every page. Will we survive? We have been cast adrift and are lost. Hope is a feeling we need to renew every day, persistently, so that we can keep clinging to little moments of apparent relief:

And beyond its branches,
black against evening
grey, are the skies that taunt, drifting
and returning, as if
time is stalking time
in this moment
of imminent 

Evening lamps, come on,
reassure in this theatre
of human frailty.

Izod’s evocative imagery and exact lines clearly convey meaning and yet are deeply emotional. The observation of the self in challenging circumstances goes together with a true empathy towards the other. An example of this can be seen in  ‘Still life in A&E’ where the situation of the elderly lady who has been waiting for thirteen hours “between the pain and patience” is depicted but at the same time is transcended “into the promise / of a sun pushing into early morning mist”. The connections that seem lost during the ‘trying times’ of Covid-19 are resolved in realities that are transformed through poetry.

The title poem, ‘While There is Hope’, conveys these ideas. It was written in response to the collapse, in June 2021, of Champlain Tower South in Miami, which was caused by long-term neglect and degradation; and the poem is connected to the human condition in the world. The challenging situation we were experiencing during the spread of the infection and the consequent lock-downs were almost annihilating. The unidentified ‘monster’ that attacks the earth with its immeasurable power is called ‘devastation’; it runs “fast and loose / like a dog seeking the thermal.” The accumulation of imagery and the alliteration of ‘s’ sounds communicate a sense of anxiety in a dispersion of meaning caused by the ‘storm’. The confusion is total and overwhelming.

However, the clever, attentive observations filtered by personal meditations also look for connections with what seems to have been lost in the pandemic:

But here I am, reaching 
with both arms into blind spaces,
just a silent flickering over the Marches
to bring witness to their low-lying storms,
and only the touch of this quilt on the bed
to tell me what century I might be in.
                                               (‘Thin Place’)

We live in a limbo where stable concepts of time and place are unreachable. We can only grasp the moment, which evanesces even as we voice it. Thus, the everyday expands, creating realities that temporarily replace what is unbearable and damaging. Poetry is central in this process; and Izod’s lines achieve accuracy and charm, involving the reader in a personal and global consideration of who we are, where we live and for how long.

Editor’s note: This, the last review that Carla Scarano D’Antonio wrote for London Grip before her recent untimely death, was only recently forwarded to our offices. We are glad to have the chance to publish one more example of her thoughtful and appreciative writing.