NEW HOPE INTERNATIONAL REVIEW

An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
HEATHER BRETT: GREEN MONKEY TRAVELLING
Bluechrome Publishing
PO Box 109
Portishead
Bristol
BS20 7ZJ
UK
ISBN 1 904781 91 8
7.99 [12]

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HEATHER BRETT: GREEN MONKEY TRAVELLING

What an amazing book! GREEN MONKEY, TRAVELLING is a fantastic collection of poetry with each poem like stepping through yet another door into Heather Brett's psyche as poet. We are voyeurs of her emotions, when she is weak, and when she is strong. These two conflicting emotions can best be seen in poems such as A VILLANELLE ON MARRIAGE where a defiant show of strength reveals bitter resignation instead.

	I wear the wrinkled, dimpled skins of age,
	the colours dimmed, the texture dead,
	living proof, against that state of marriage.
 
	The cracks aren't really hard to gauge,
	it's twice too many times I've wed,
	I wear the winkled, dimpled skins of age.
 
	The veins protrude, Braille work on page,
	the contours banked with words unsaid,
	living proof against that state of marriage.
 
	And if it's true that all the world's a stage,
	roles played with gusto, inhibitions shed
	I wear these wrinkled, dimpled skins of age
            
	to show that neither gift nor wage
	atones for loss of interest  instead
	I'm living proof 'gainst that state of marriage.
 
	The mothball scents of firmer flesh
	lingers far ways from the nuptial bed,
	I wear the wrinkled, dimpled skins of age
	living proof against that state of marriage.
When a poet bares their soul it often ends in a fiasco of sentimental mush. One of Brett's many strengths is that this danger zone is negotiated with finesse. Take for example, A DAUGHTER GOING HOME, this poem outlines minutely a journey the poet could take with her eyes closed. The intimacy of this journey is revealed in the first lines:
	The way I go, it's a hundred
	and ten miles, door to door:
	familiar, do-it-in-my-sleep roads,
	full of country lanes and
	byways, short cuts and lay-bys,
	full of roundabouts and dimples,
	scenic routes, the odd village,
	through at least six separate counties,
	numerous suburbs, countless boroughs.
Affection for this route shows in the self-deprecating and casual description that curbs any excess of sentimentality. The same affection is shown throughout GREEN MONKEY, TRAVELLING for the poet's adopted country, Ireland. We are never allowed to forget the importance of landscape and home to Brett and in poems such as COUNTRY SLUMBER comparisons are tantamount:
	I like this night,
	almost humid: dark
	hints of ochre sand,
	dried terracotta shadow.
	An ever-so-slight breeze
	pivots the shed door shut,
	teases it open.
 
	We seldom get nights like this 
	In Cavan.
	Here cows bellow and the dark
	is heavy, timid
	scents drift off the drumlins
	settle and steal,
	covet the landscape, swallow.
 
	It's a good prelude to morning.
	One red rip and the night
	is mortally wounded, limping back
	from a death's head grin at the window;
	something we're too familiar with,
	a rosemary sprig by the photograph,
	the dream's imprint on our pillow.
There are disturbing images in this poem aroused by the nightmarish ending. Before this disturbance the poem is solid and dependable. The language is mild until the final stanza when it becomes violent,
	One red rip and the night
	is mortally wounded.
This disruption continues in the poem following, QUIET, which becomes altogether more ethereal and disturbing.
	A black angel moults in a cupboard.
	On a quiet night, I can hear the odd feather
	fall, the soft tap of a shed louse,
	the singular crick of a thin bone stretching.
COUNTRY SLUMBER and QUIET are placed side by side so that despite the apparent similarity of theme broadcasted by their titles, their visual difference adds to the unsettledness they create. What is the black angel? Is it her other self, her darker side moulting bitterness and pain to emerge in a new coat of glossy colour? The title of the piece, QUIET, suggests the quiet of sleep when the mind heals the pain, when emotions manifest into nightmares and dreams, when the unconscious becomes active. For a short poem, its impact is hard hitting and lasting.

GREEN MONKEY, TRAVELLING is a fantastic collection. Her poetry is of the highest calibre, it sings to the reader and unusually can be read as a kind of novel in verse, or by a random selection. This is not her first collection, but it has captured my imagination and I will look to buy her previous works. Heather Brett's is a rare talent. One that I hope to see more of in the future.

reviewer: Fionna Doney Simmonds.