An independent small press poetry review

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Original Plus
17 High Street
CA15 6BQ
ISBN 0 9533591 9 0

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YELLOW TORCHLIGHT AND THE BLUES is the new collection from Emma Lee, a Leicester based poet, who has been widely published, broadcast and a prize winner on a number of occasions.

This collection naturally divides into two halves. The second half focuses on the music business. The poems show a world populated by fading or never-quite-made-it popstars and women in stilettos and too much eye make-up. They offer an interesting insight into this often seedy world with its disappointments, drug use and mental health issues. Lee used to review bands and these poems are full of well-observed detail.

The first half of the book ranges over society's outsiders, birth, death, family relations, abuse and football. Some of the poems are too matter of fact: for example we can read in the newspapers about the facts around redundancy and the poem HUMAN RESOURCES ADVISOR doesn't add anything to our understanding of the issue, or to our empathy for people who have been made redundant. Some of the poems are disturbing, such as LITTLE WALL which tells the story of a child in his room, wondering what is going on in through the wall of his parent's room and THE ROOM OF DOLLS:

	He enters his mother's private room,
	redolent with magnolias.
	He sees a thousand staring eyes.
Many of the best poems are moving and memorable character studies, for example: MARK; ANDREW and SOME EMPTY SEATS ARE TAKEN with its portrait of a widower, unused to his wife's absence, who, on getting off the bus:
	...pulls himself up and bites his lip
	as he leaves without looking
	at the empty seat he'd sat next to.
The most remarkable poem for me is USING FRENCH KNOTS FOR BLUEBELLS, which I quote in full below:
	Complete all the two-strand stitches:
	satin leaves, stems: ready for flower buds
	Select the right shade of blue:
	the positive pregnancy test is a good guide.
	Pick a single strand, push needle through and hold,
	like that moment between test and result,
	wrap the thread around the needle at least three times.
	A little knot of cells had latched to a womb's lining.
	Ease the needle back through the cloth:
	the knot should fix.
	If not, the advice is to forget and try again
	 think of it as a dropped stitch.
	Embroidery keeps the hands busy.
This poem conveys loss beautifully the activity that occupies the hands but reminds the parallels between the sewing and the failed pregnancy and the prevalence of the colour blue throughout.

The collection gives glimpses into parts of life where many of us would prefer not to go and poets are not encouraged these days to lead us there. It is not always an easy journey, and some of the poems work better than others, but it is reassuring to find someone with undeniable talent writing about these topics.

Reviewer: Juliet Wilson.