London Grip Poetry Review – Steve Pottinger

Poetry review – SNAPSHOTS FROM THE FALL OF HOME: Pat Edwards admires Steve Pottinger’s skill at bringing important themes to life

Snapshots from the fall of home
Steve Pottinger
Ignite Books 
ISBN 978-1-7394509-1-5 

In his latest collection, Steve Pottinger shares his characteristic everyday observations of ordinary and familiar folk, their situations and encounters. The book is life-affirming but challenges us to think about the myriad realities that aren’t necessarily our own.

The opening poem recalls being young and ‘so full of hope’ and subsequent poems praise the poet’s home town, stumbling drunks, market traders and rough sleepers before eventually making slant digs at bureaucracy and bad government. In all these themes Pottinger has that rare gift for making sense. The poems show craft, variety, and a lightness of touch when it comes to poetic tricks and flourishes. He appears to take deliberate care to use only the tropes and elements of the poet’s tool box which suit his purpose. There is no showing off – oh look, I can write a sonnet or create a narrative using over-complicated extended metaphor – so as a reader I feel included, considered, engaged. However, look how special is his handling of the perfect imagery to capture the way houses change hands over the years or are lost to development in “The sun is shining at last, and”. Here a ‘black guy with half a mouth of teeth and a Rasta belt holding up his raggy jeans’ shares his sadness at old houses being lost, and the poet promises to ‘look after the house’:

On the car park
a crow pecks greedily at a stolen egg
the wood pigeons still haven’t realised is gone

Likewise, if you are looking for clever use of repetition to create effect, try “[here], plodding on” where the square bracketing of [here] so powerfully puts the reader in a precise place where we all ‘plod on’ despite desperate circumstances; [here] is a location, a series of places, even the heart, and creates a shared existence. Actually, if Pottinger favours any devices at all, maybe it is repetition, as in the use of refrains in “For George” – ‘i can’t breathe’, or in “This should be simple”, or in “Snapshot” – ‘right now’.

In “The statue’s story” Pottinger responds to a life-size statue of a figure by Alison Lochhead, which stands in the grounds of Mid Wales Arts Centre. The poet shows his ability to tune into the big themes of social history, myth, shared humanity, and up-rising:

tomorrow we will force open the gates,
my tribe and I,
march west under moonlight 
guided by the certainty of memory and stars

Pottinger writes about urban life and the characters he meets but always he shows an awareness of the natural world and how it tries to assert itself amidst urban sprawl. Perhaps he also uses this as metaphor. In “Early this morning”, the final poem, could the homeless be the ‘plants curled in upon themselves’ or could ‘the din of the bin truck’ represent the constant babble of dissenting voices, and the expectation that ‘any moment / now that sun /will rise’ be the expression of sustained hope for all of us? Sometimes this hope is purposely, unapologetically romantic as in “15, Darlington St”

know that out of darkness comes light
that anything is possible
that the miracle of bee-buzz and birdsong
was always there, waiting

At other times, the hope is more measured or tempered, as in “On holiday in Scotland…”

oystercatcher shriek alarms
about the day to come…
the sun will burst upon us soon enough

The poems in this collection include many that have been published in a variety of places, so it is great to find them all in one place, as a solid testimony to the poet’s prolific political voice. The impact of reading this collection is profound and moving; it proves what poetry can do in promoting issues and making us stop and reflect on what really matters.