NEW HOPE INTERNATIONAL REVIEW

An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
SARAH LAW: THE LADY CHAPEL
Stride Publications
4b Tremayne Close
Devoran
Cornwall
TR3 6QE
UK ISBN 1 900152 88 6
8.50

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SARAH LAW: THE LADY CHAPEL

THE LADY CHAPEL is a most unusual collection, stimulating and demanding. Law takes on many voices from the past, as well as commenting obliquely on the present. Saints and sinners jostle, from women mystics like Hildegard of Bingen to the more recent Mrs Yeats reflecting on her husband who loves her automatic writing rather than herself.

Hildegard's reluctant growth into a leading figure of the medieval church (and inspiration for many modern women priests), is beautifully portrayed, with a welcome touch of humour in DIAGNOSIS OF A MYSTIC BASED ON THE LIFE AND MIGRAINES OF HILDEGARD OF BINGEN:

	I grew into a habit ...

	I could not think that I should come to good,
	yet heal I must: both others and myself.
	I studied states of women and of man -
	their cyclical disorders, muscle spasms ...
				as angels
	of watchfulness, tenderness, trained
	my hand.
The opening lines of A VISIONARY'S TALE: THE AUTOMATIC WRITING OF MRS YEATS give an indication of the compression and forcefulness of Law at her best:
	He compared me to a rose.
	And just like the rose, I reddened,
	little knowing the pain of the wrench
	as his palm crushed mine and forced
	my delicate stem into a ring.
I loved MARGERY'S HARBOUR, too, a fascinating visualisation of the life and calling of Margery Kempe. It helps to have some knowledge of the mystics featured, and I'll admit that I did not fully understand some of the poems (for example TWO MYSTICAL POEMS). I also need to do more research on figures like Julian of Norwich. I am left puzzling over the regular question, to give notes or not to give notes? Here they would definitely interrupt the flow, as in one of the few examples SEQUOIA SEMPERVIRENS. In any case, most of Law's poems stand on their own.

My personal favourites, even so, tend to be those which demand less prior knowledge, like LOSING IT, SHOP GIRL SHELVING and the delightful WHO NEEDS A LOVE LIFE WHEN YOU'VE GOT POETRY? A HEADLESS GHOST DOG ... also thoroughly intrigues me.

The last section of the book is made up of a sequence of yoga poems, in which the various positions undertaken during a yoga session become focal points for meditation, expressed sometimes in appropriately stretched language and syntax. Yet once again, even without a knowledge of yoga, most can be appreciated simply as poetry.

There is definitely a fresh voice here, and Law's poems can be thought provoking, comforting, or troubling in turn. I can recommend this collection, but be prepared to read some of the poems several times, and perhaps to do a bit of research to fully appreciate the voices they recreate.

reviewer: Pauline Kirk.