Sunday, 19 April 2020
Review by Gary Day of "The Escapologist" by Jinny Fisher
To the extent that many of the poems in this collection aim to give a picture of Jinny Fisher’s physical world, real and remembered, they succeed. In ‘Sunday Lunch’ Mother ‘works oil into the surface’ of a ‘long table’ with her ‘bleached wooden brush’; in ‘Screen Memory’ a ‘shiny red hand-pump … spurts brook water for the kettle,’ while in ‘Antiphon’ a crowd ‘almost trample / two tiny wellington boots, painted with daisies, / half buried in the mud.’ Fisher, who has undergone a series of metamorphoses from classical violinist, to psychotherapist to poet, has an eye for detail. Her descriptions are precise. The reader is treated to a series of clearly defined images, but a number are inert. The scene is set but nothing happens.
This is not true of all of these poems. ‘Half-Sister’s Lunch’ neatly captures the tensions between the two women; sharing a plate of food and tearing bread dramatically portray their closeness and rivalry and there is genuine tension in the build up to the magnificent last line. Another work that should be singled out for praise is ‘Regeneration’ which simultaneously keeps in play the shock, the relief, and the new found freedom that comes from the end of what appears to be an abusive relationship. But that’s not all. A faint air of regret hangs about the poem. As someone who has studied psychoanalysis, Fisher is all too aware of the dangerous ambiguity of human emotion.
One of the eye-catching qualities of the collection is the layout of Fisher’s poems. Some, like the title poem, are laid out in paragraphs, others like ‘The Scarf’ follow the shape of the object they describe. All of them, whether they are about home, family relations or even her violin have something to recommend them.
About the reviewer
Gary Day is a retired English lecturer. His research mainly lay in three areas, the history of literary criticism, the workings of class in British literature and the persistence of sacrificial ritual in the development of drama. He had a column in the Times Higher for a number of years and has also edited two volumes on the history of British poetry as well as the three volume Wiley Encyclopaedia of British Literature 1660-1789. He hates management speak, has been involved in amateur theatre for over thirty years and is still trying to write poetry.
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