Monday, 1 March 2021

Review by Neil Fulwood of "The Last Dinosaur in Doncaster" by Sarah Wimbush

 


When a pamphlet wins a major competition adjudicated by such luminaries as Imtiaz Dharker and Ian McMillan - and when a number of the poems within that pamphlet have been placed in or won the Mslexia, Red Shed, Live Cannon International and Bread & Roses Poetry Competitions (and others: the acknowledgements page does some heavy lifting) - it’s a safe guess that the reader is in for some good poetry.

The Last Dinosaur in Doncaster isn’t just good; it’s as good as it gets. As a second salvo following the Seren pamphlet Bloodlines (2019), which explored the poet’s Traveller heritage, it doubles down on that work’s statement of intent, that establishes Wimbush as a major new talent, a distinctive voice, in British poetry. 

Broadly, The Last Dinosaur in Doncaster explores geography, class, recent history (key poems take the 1984-85 miners’ strike as a backdrop), heritage and landscapes, both internal and external. There is arguably more going on in its 35 pages than many a full-length collection achieves. I could easily write a couple of thousand words by way of review, studded with any number of eminently quotable excerpts, but for reasons of brevity, ‘The Lost’ serves as an exemplar of the pamphlet’s aesthetic. A social history linking people to jobs and places, it unspools through two pages, moving from nostalgia 

          Elsie’s grand-kiddies scrubbed up nice
          on Saturdays at Greyfriars Baths,
          changing them in poolside cubicles,
          all their worldly goods in one wire basket

to the starker realities of those times:

          the seven lads who never came back
          ...
          while the filthy rich lorded it in NCB’s Coal House
          and Plant

to the socio-economic changes that bring the poem up to date:

          ... the factories turned call centres,
          the schoolyards, the ginnels, the smokeless chimneys
          and beneath them, beneath all that, those lost men,
          and all that blackness still down there.

This is muscular poetry, wrought with precision and loaded with experience. Mordant humour runs through it. Wimbush has a keen eye for human foibles, and heart and talent big enough to transform them into art.


About the reviewer
Neil Fulwood was born in Nottingham, where he still lives and works. He is the author of two poetry collections with Shoestring Press, No Avoiding It and Can’t Take Me Anywhere, with a third forthcoming in June 2021.


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