Thursday 15 June 2023

Review by Charles G. Lauder, Jr., of "Latch" by Rebecca Goss


A latch opens the way, allows you to move from one room to the next, as if entering a new stage of life, and in Rebecca Goss’s latest poetry collection, Latch, is all about movement, movement that leads to reflection, recollection, transformation. These poems were written following Goss’s return, with her family, to the Suffolk countryside where she grew up. Watching her daughter blossom and experience rural life makes Goss recall her own childhood, when she sought independence and freedom, while also witnessing her mother’s struggles. For the most part these eras avoid overlapping in the same poem but move in parallel: every journey backwards is reflected by a step forwards. Goss recognizes it’s her daughter’s turn to step out, yet she also knows freedom means separation and danger, though you’re full of ‘heat and blood and questions.’ As she writes in the collection’s opening poem, ‘The Hounds,’ ‘It’s as if something | calamitous is coming’:

Should I slide the thin pane,
push my upper body

into emerging light,
let them scent out my sex,

tell them
we are all afraid.

In ‘State of Being Young,’ a young girl with ‘two pairs of jeans, / rammed in a paper bag’ makes an attempt to break away, but only gets so far before her mother fetches her (‘car stuffed with siblings’):

           … Passenger door
          pushed open in surrender,
          the gesture saying
          don’t leave us now, not yet.

Yet, Goss accepts her child must do the same:

          The click of a car seat unbuckling.
         You have made your decision
         to leave this space,
         because inside the car with your mother
         you won’t see
         Brimstone butterflies,
         the seasoned ponds
         the coppiced limes’
         determined stretch towards light.

Throughout, cars are key to transformation, more than just retrieving and releasing: from their car Goss and her daughter witness (or not) a deer and three fawn as well as a pheasant; Goss uses her car to steal and bring home a childhood stream; and her father carries off a dying cat. In the very moving ‘That Afternoon, on Her Bicycle,’ Goss’s grandmother at a young age discovers her father dead in his car. Laying aside her bicycle, she drives him back home in reverse gear to a waiting birthday party.

Perhaps it’s knowing when is the time to strike out and to keep on striking, to never stop. In one of the most passionate poems in the book, ‘When It Feels Hot, That Rage Against Me,’ Goss recalls a night walking home with friends from the pub, ‘the lane knowing | how to hold us, its chorus of night creatures.’ Though time has moved on, Goss doesn’t want to extinguish that spark but to pull her friends ‘from their tumble-dried sheets’ and

         become a multitude storming under stars, sky crackling
                           at the sight of us, all the promises re-rising
                  in our throats, needing each other like fire.

A very emotionally powerful moment of action in what is mainly a ‘quiet’ but moving collection.

About the reviewer
Charles G. Lauder, Jr., is an American poet who has lived in the UK for over twenty years. He’s published two pamphlets, Bleeds (2012) and Camouflaged Beasts (2017), and a debut collection, The Aesthetics of Breath, which was published by V.Press in 2019. His website is here

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