Friday 11 February 2022

Review by Rosa Fernandez of "Overlap" by Valerie Bence

Overlap is a collection of twenty-one poems by Valerie Bence that contains many timely ideas, and the weaving together of all of them makes sense of this title. This was a book I very much enjoyed reading, and wherever Valerie is, I’m sending her a massive hug.

The journey of this book is from past into present, at first an appreciation of her two clearly much-loved grandmothers Winifred and Harriet; Winifred ‘laughed at everything’ and ‘taught me to wink’ marking her out as the cheekier. Harriet is more brooding and dutiful and ‘lived like prey’ and both suggested elements of my own mother (also a grandmother, and more of a Winifred) and my grandmother (more of a Harriet, I reckon, although she had her moments). The snippets of description of a 1960s childhood will resonate with many, the older women still carrying the drama of wartime with them. The poem ‘Not as posh as I thought we were’ I particularly enjoyed; I felt I could have been the wide-eyed confused child of that poem and it made me giggle.

The last four poems are a sucker punch, and really moved me; I know my mother would feel a solidarity with the sentiments within, having missed time with her own grandchildren. The line ‘I could hardly speak’ hit me hard, and so much of all our lives have been affected by the last two years that I am sure many readers would be similarly moved. The final poem ‘Press me in peat’ is the right poem to end on; while not necessarily a happy ending, it acts as summary from ‘melting glaciers’ to ‘like now’ where we return to the febrile present. I’m sure the grandchildren will be pleased to have this record, and I hope Nonna gets hugs again very soon. 

Rosa Fernandez is a slam-winning poet and sometime proofreader. She also enjoys wearing silly hats. 

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