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Saturday, 26 March 2016

Screeching Seagulls, The Worst of Years: “Blinking in the Light”, Louisa Adjoa Parker; Dorset Poet

“Blinking in the Light" may be described as a poetry pamphlet, but it packs as much punch as a full-length collection.

There is no mention of Lyme Regis in this slim volume of 22 poems, published by Cinnamon Press, but there is certainly mention of some of the social problems that exist even in Dorset's and Devon’s most beautiful sea-side towns, where - to the unfortunate, the impoverished or the grieving - the sea-gulls can be perceived as screeching, screaming and mocking in a hostile and threatening manner.

There is mention of Class A drugs, a death caused by vodka and a bag of smack, pregnancy and single motherhood, racism, a suicide by hanging (“I wonder if he kept his glasses on”): more pain than love.

“he dangled upstairs
with broken neck and broken dreams
and his dog would not stop barking”.

(The week she turned nineteen)

Ian Gregson, who adjudicated the Cinnamon Press Poetry Pamphlet Competition, which Louisa won along with three others, describes it as “a collection of confessional poems which, in starkly telling a story about a fraught pregnancy and the suicide of a man very close to the speaker's family, evokes with powerful images and unadorned language a raw sense of contemporary life”.

In reviewing it, I am conscious of having had a relatively fortunate and privileged life so far, although this sequence of poems reminds the reader how fragile life is, and how events can suddenly take a terrible turn for the worse.

The collection ends on a positive, even optimistic note, as the poet struggles to come to terms with the events described (which took place two decades ago), and which she has bravely managed to put behind her.

“I can release
it, like a bird that’s been kept
for years in a covered cage.
it flies into the sky,
blinking in the light”.

(The worst of years has gone)

At the reading in Dorchester Library and Learning Centre, Louisa was able to talk about such tragic losses and grim experiences with a hint of gently ironic and self-effacing humour – the semi-public face of a survivor? She has moved on from the days when she lived in a flat

“where black flowers of mould
Bloom across the bathroom walls”.

(A blue cross says Yes to me)

 Even a move to a better flat offers little consolation -

“The new flat I wanted for so long
feels hollow. Someone
has scooped out our insides,
filled us up with pain”.


At St Michael’s Church -

“The air is thick
with blame. It falls
on us like sea mist,
like salt on open wounds”.


There may be no resurrection for those who died, but Louisa has given us a small, revitalising volume that I feel privileged to be reading over the Easter weekend.

The poems are autobiographical and confessional, as direct as the poems by Sylvia Plath, one of the most powerful poets of the last century.

I am also a great admirer of Louisa’s first volume of poetry, Salt-sweat & Tears, (now, sadly, out of print), which contains poems like “Velvet Dresses” and “Sometimes when I’m making beds”, which she also read at Dorchester Library and Learning Centre on March 24.

I hope to be able to read her first novel before too long, and a collection of her excellent short stories, some of which are only available in anthologies.

I once interviewed Louisa, back in November 2010. Her writing continues to grow in strength. Definitely a writer to be followed.

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