POETRY BOOK REVIEW

THE SQIRRELS ARE DEAD

MIRIAM GAMBLE

BLOODAXE ISBN 978 1 85224868 0 £7.95

Miriam Gamble grew up in Belfast and still lives there. She works as a freelance writer and tutor. Her work has been highly praised by (among others) Michael Longley.

I very much liked her poetry; it’s very direct and has that whiff of “the real thing” in every poem.

There is one remarkable poem about George Best where she speaks to him directly and describes him as the “fierce alembic of your homeland;” it took the dictionary to tell me what “alembic” meant: “an apparatus used by alchemists to distill” ... genius and destruction, I suppose she meant.

Then there is a wonderfully lyrically and romantic poem about Vincent Van Gogh’s The Bridge in the Rain beginning with a line by Sinead Morrissey: “ The words went south where the sun was, but stayed hungry,” then the poet continues, “waiting for the people to forsake the wooden bridge,/its peaked tips pointing outwards to the temperate zone – the hamlet just beyond the ridge.” The last verse of the poem keeps faith with the “words being hungry” where on the “bent bridge”, water drowned the peoples’ valencey; dictionary again: valency: power which atoms possess of combining with one another to form molecules... in other words the intensity of art, not a bad description of Van Gogh!

Shaun Traynor