London Grip Poetry Review – Rebecca Goss

Poetry review – LATCH: Louise Warren is drawn in by these captivating poems of reminiscence by Rebecca Goss

Rebecca Goss
Carcanet Poetry
ISBN 9781800173217  

Who wants to lift the latch of memory and find out what is lost and what is still holding? In this beautiful collection, Rebecca Goss weaves together memory and myth and shows us how the holding of a child’s hand, suddenly loosened, can evoke the image of a swan’s nest.

We return to see one, peeping,
puff of grey from under her
and the next week come back
to find a family gone. One,
unhatched, remaining.
Its marble lonely in the bowl.
Your hand slips out of mine

Her writing is lucid and seemingly effortless. Goss revisits the landscape of Suffolk and her family home, where the latch is lifted onto memories of her childhood and teenage years.

I thought of my split
from this country,
the stench of pastoral
in a city’s current.
How I stayed away so long.

What quickens that return? It is the desire to connect again to a landscape full of fields, stiles, churches, water, animals and birds.

Some of the titles are like tiny stories in themselves, as in “Woman Returns To Childhood Home, Finds Herself Amongst Others”. Goss lifts the latch and we follow in behind her. The past suddenly flares into focus, the room is filled with others who have been there before. Her mother, father, friends, family and a half secret, not quite caught at the time.

From the chaos of the kitchen for her friends
gathering behind your head in their hats
and fabulous trousers, the fine fog

of their cigarettes over your shoulder,
my brothers’ wooden trikes heading for
people’s ankles and when I look outside

We don’t catch at first what she sees or what is happening. After all we are bystanders here, outside the frame of her experience. Yet, I was haunted by what follows; and this is the power of her poetry describing something half glimpsed that I felt almost guilty for witnessing.

I see my uncle crying and this is before
you’ve taken me to see my parents’ bedroom.

The poems are exceptionally well placed. A wide angled poem like the one quoted above, is often followed by a close-up, as in the poem “Deathwatch Beetles”.

Such a distinctive tick
to their borings,
their collective, tiny strengths
causing you to poke
at what’s exposed.

Both poems then appear connected, like a series of rooms in the same house, and one can go backwards and forwards between them discovering yet more secrets, yet more corners to explore. This is certainly a book that reveals more of itself each time you read it.

Many of these poems are written from a child’s point of view. The world slants upwards and away from us and the memory of it is remembered in fragments and as a mixture of innocent wonder and adult hindsight.

the night sky on her feet: peep toe, diamante studded heels, with bow.
The most beautiful things I had seen in my life. The swirl
of her black silk Marilyn Monroe dress, her marriage almost over.

Children are found, then lost, suddenly and often in unsettling ways. A childhood memory of clambering up forbidden haystacks piled high in a barn takes us into the world of the cautionary tales of Struwwelpeter.

Then one was gone. Slipped unnoticed into a gap
our parents warned us of, how this strawy structure
could snatch a boy, or girl, and the plummet too great,
too narrow to save them.

When Goss leaves the family home, as most of us do, she can’t wait to be gone.

With two pairs of jeans, rammed
in a paper bag, splitting, and a fury
so palpable felt it.
Her leaving not yet an absence.

Yet now, as many of us also feel, she longs to return. The longing is so acute she even steals a stream — a wonderful image appearing in the poem “Woman Returns To Childhood Home, Carries Out An Act Of Theft”

I bend down
to find it surprisingly compliant.
Translucent rope, gathered,
heavy as a baby by the time I reach the car.

The stolen object then shape-shifts from water to child. Transient beings, wild, struggling out of her hands. Goss weaves her feelings of motherhood so tenderly into these poems, conveying the desire to hold onto that which she loves.

Always in these poems there is the image of something opening and closing: a heavy key held in a palm; a latch lifted; A door pushed open; a memory revealed or a memory imagined. And everything takes place in this landscape of ditch-edged meanderings.

Here she comes
hair a stream
path come, dog’s
ears pricked
to the latch.

And then in we go….