An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
Koo Press
19 Lochinch Park
Cove Bay
AB12 3RF
ISBN 0 9553075 1 1

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Brian Farrington's collection SALT SUDS FOR KEEPS insists on the unstated, the implicit and fragmentary. Nature is foregrounded in virtually every poem and the political and social dimension of Farrington's work is obvious. Nevertheless a powerful sense of freedom, of life's beauty and pain resonates through these poems.

One of the most striking resonances in this volume is Farrington's delight in the musical dimension of poetry and in music's role in life. The poems in this collection carry a rich musical presence their sounds, the words and syllables that bounce around and make the simplest acts deeper and more satisfying. Perhaps there is also, implicit in Farrington's style, a vision of poetry as a kind of musical accompaniment to being. Whether it is (INNISFREE)

	exhaust steam blowing 
	and the regular mutter of reciprocating crank 
	and big-end bearing
	hissing line
	tinkling cliff
or in HOMAGE TO J. M. SYNGE the poet's
	silver tongue
music in one form or another is seldom far off in these poems.

What I enjoyed especially in Farrington's poetry is the way he uses poetry to create a free self - positive, humane, fully exposed to life. Farrington intuits that the tragic, the beautiful, the truly important will find their expression here in our everydayness. Some of the finest poems in the collection include brief concise depictions of such moments, as in the four line rhymed verse LIBERTE in which the poet alludes to himself when he says,

	I am my way, my end and my direction.
EARLY SPRING IN GRAZ is rapturously beautiful, encouraging a relaxed flowing as it weaves its own reality a world that is both physical and imaged in language, united by transitoriness, by the inability to limit or define:
	Lovers bicker, she stalks off,
	he endeavours to pursue her,
	stops and sulks instead.  Thank heaven,
	youth's a stuff does not endure!
In LOVE POEM Farrington delivers some powerful lines that capture the exposure of love, the vulnerability of our core being laid open:
	I caught you,
	in a half-made dress with your mouth full of pins,
	arched in a strutting curve between two mirrors,
	and you moved from yes to yes, from now to now . . .

	and your hands, cleaning the sparking plugs from the car.
The strangeness and disorientation present in this poem, strikes one as being faithful to life's openness, a valid and natural expression of the truth one sees in a lover
	Vain as the Pompadour
	casual, deft and abrupt
	Prone to inordinate scunners
Whilst there are many strong and moving poems in this volume, I found ON A GREEN HILL the most compelling, the one that most powerfully confirms Farrington's significance as a remarkable poet. Farrington's commitment to the truth of the immediate, the primacy of the natural world, of the self, of tenderness, finds a strong voice in these lines:
	There is a green hill far away, somewhere in County Cork,
	and there was I, shoring up heaven with prayers.
	What was it tempted me to switch off hope
	of glory for a minute, just to see
	the whole gazebo suddenly clatter down
	and break in golden splinters about my ears?
	Whatever it was I earthed end of faith
	and waited, for chaos to come again.
SHEVAUN is a lengthy poem divided into seven stanzas and is an extremely sensitive poem about the death of the poet's daughter:
	Don't invent consolations for this death,
	or see a moral, no one has learnt a lesson,
	nor doll the pointless mishap up with purpose,
	to deck the bleak futility of fate
	with tinsel meaning.  There is no meaning here,
	nor shape nor plan, to this limp gap
	there is not answer but escape, and no escape,
	or resignation, and I'll not resign.
The poet tends his daughter's death with a sensibility involving compassion and belief that
	Life is more than lives and carries on
Tended with humility too or maybe just the wariness of someone for whom self-deception is a no-go zone. Once endured, is death of a loved one, something we are ever really free from, or want to be free from? In the poem Farrington leaves the impression of someone on the edge, whose emotions are real and wrapped in reverence and awe.

A poem like PYRENEES, recounting a landscape, dwells in the consciousness in a way wholly energised, unpredictable and beautifully realised. Farrington's description of the mountains as

	The perils are huge and serene: stones clatter to the abyss,
	the mist prowls below, the way is a maze of brinks
has a precise laconic edge. The flexible taut rhythms of the poem, its fidelity to experience and its inventiveness carry the reader along with it.

ANNA MAGDALENA BACH is a haunting poem about the composer's wife, who bore him

	all of thirteen children
yet still found time to
	Gentle her domestic
	fingers on the keyboard
Perhaps it seems most appropriate to close the review with the last lines from the last poem in the book the title poem, SALT SUDS FOR KEEPS, which takes us back to the poet's boyhood days and his first visit to England:
	Now, when I think, I see the humped flood,
	the immense revolving sea, as it swilled past,
	the black wall of ship with a small round port-hole in it,
	and my ten year old eyes making fast that shape on the water,

	that shape on the sea that I am remembering still.
The freshness, the delight in being, the musicality of the words, captures well the energy, fullness and courage of Farrington's work.

reviewer: Patricia Prime.