FRAGMENTS by Victoria Bennett
48 pages, £5.00,
BYRON MAKES HIS BED, 48 pages, £5.00
RILKE TATTOO by Gill Hands, 48 pages, £5.00
THE 3am CLUB by various authors, 48 pages, £5.00
All published by Wild Women Press, 10, The Common, Windermere, Cumbria LA23 1JH

'Now for the poet he or she nothing affirms, and therefore never lies' or does the poet lie? And having watched the programme series from which the poems in Fragments arise I find it hard to recognise the poems and the introduction as dealing with the same person that appeared in the programmes. Here was someone who was given an opportunity to live by rules when she said herself she had never wanted or had accepted any. In the BBC 2 documentary series The Convent she acknowledged that she seemed to be unsuccessful in her rule-less life.  In this sequence of poems she belies this:

      Day I:
     Come in, come in
     And enter my house,

     Even if its ways will break
     The careful order of my rooms.

This is a sequence of poems - one for every day the poet spends in the Convent of The Poor Clares at Arundel. But this is also someone who spent a week or nearly a week of the 40 days outside the community on compassionate leave. Which poems were written whilst she was absent? She does not say. From the poems it is not possible to identify the time she was absent. The record of the 40 days presented by the TV programme records a trail of response to the Poor Clare Community that is not even hinted at in the poems - the days when she openly broke the Great Silence, the afternoon when she left the enclosed community vulnerable to intruders by opening a large gate in the garden and leaving it open in order to go to a local pub, and drank wine - not shared with others - in her cell in the company of one of the other guests of the series? Where do the poems mention such events? Are the programme makers to blame? Have they given us a wrong impression? Has the poet deliberately presented another reality to counteract the impression given by the programme?  Is this poet contemplative and insightful after all?

     Day 15
     Tonight, I am alone
     scribbling verses in the dark,
     tending with lover
     what is weary and old;

     the broken soul body
     I have come to call home.

The poems are short lyrics where the poet seeks to sum up an emotional or possible spiritual impression. However I wish I could believe in this poet's sources of inspiration. As far as the documentary can be relied upon she was such an unwilling guest. The poems hint at dialogue with the community of nuns rather than express any real communication.  Television coverage brings its own problems - notoriety in this case threatening to swamp what should be seen as something in itself.

The other titles in this group of poetry booklets have no such provenance to interfere with their poem-bytes.
Byron Makes His Bed, also by Victoria Bennett is a book of love lyrics where there are interesting references to science as a source of inspiration.  The 3am Club is an anthology of eight Wild Women Poets, both men and women who met at a Creative Writing course at Lancaster University. Victoria Bennett's introduction recalls: 'The 3am Club, a fictional place where poets gather to create word-magic when other people are deep in the torpor of sleep'. And the poems do indeed reflect the shadows and images that haunt us in dreams and half-waking consciousness. Gill Hands' Rilke Tattoo is often funny. The sequence is an exploration of THE POET - perhaps this could be a registered Trade Mark - I quote:

     THE POET is suffering from Borderline Hypergraphia

     according to an article in
New Scientist

     The uncontrollable urge to write
     on everything.

     It's either hypergraphia
     or a bad attack of semiotics.

If you hear of these poets giving a reading at a local venue, I would go. Join them for a drink, meet the wild women (meet the wild men), enjoy the event, remember to take some sleeping pills, perhaps leave poetry until later.

            © Sam Rennes 2006