Friday, 4 August 2006

First books: A

Alyson Torns launched her first book a month ago, with a couple of readings, one of which was at Crossing the Line, the series (now at the Plough, Museum Street, first Fridays) where we probably first met, a few years ago. From the Lost Property Office contains work by a 'quartet' of personae: Stella Stein has an eating disorder, Alice Band a painful empathy with children hurt or destroyed; Eunice Pessoa exists through emotional relations but is insightful and reflective; Maria Pimenta engages (or at least 'watches') a wider world outside, and is alive to language as the material of perception and construction. Maria's poems are built on the page in rectangular chunks, while those of the other three are for the most part
intermittently stanzaic free verse. As a whole, the book reads like a growth and development, and that impression was reinforced at the reading, where Alyson presented some newer work again, which was more fractured and abstracted. It'll certainly be interesting to follow her trajectory; but this book is meanwhile a serious, consolidated achievement. The piece that touched me most in fact is one of Alice's, a little one:

Legs dangling
in the air
from energy
of my father's feet

exhilaration of
leaving my seat
flying away
for a moment.

The dangling is typical: these poems start and end in medias res -- they don't purport to resolve anything. The book ends with a piece by 'Alyson Torns', an account of a weekend in Lisbon 'In search of Pessoa'. The poet's experience and love of Portugal suggests itself as theme for wider work, and her prose style is engaging in quite a subtle way. I thought, She should do more of this! (and I rarely enjoy prose).
Alyson is a lovely, open-hearted, vivid being; she's been holding her breath for this book, and it's brilliant to see it out, and see it good. (Visually too: she was allowed to do the design, and it's attractive & readable.)
Alyson Torns, From the Lost Property Office: a Quartet for Pessoa (London: Hearing Eye, 2006) 1-905082-08-8