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Tall Lighthouse
Stark Gallery
384-386 Lee High Road
SE12 8RW
ISBN 978 1 904551 32 4

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This page last updated: 14th December 2007.

A black and white photograph of Abi Curtis gracing the back cover of her collection HUMBUG, portrays a lovely young woman with expressive features and blond tresses. Her writing reveals a youthful irreverence combined with the liveliness of an individual immersed in the complexities of life. HUMBUG contains 11 poems of one or two pages in length, with one poem divided into four sections.

Curtis' wide-ranging focus sifts through eccentric electrical pioneers, bare-back riding, a mole, a trapeze artist and a teasingly delicate love lyric. A recurring leitmotif in her writing is the capacity for critical self-appraisal, as in the title poem HUMBUG where Curtis recollects the story of Humbug

	stuck to the foot
	of the house
and later on his demise:
	No Humbug where he should have been.
	The murmur of the rain began like quiet terror.
	The black stain and my Humbug were the same:
	creeping, quiet shells that stick and shatter.
She's similarly introspective in the poem BARE-BACK RIDER in considering the fall the rider might one day make from a horse and what that might involve: While we are one, we are safe.
	But an errant finger-tip,
	a turn of eye a millimetre left,
	a camera-flash might spook
	a tendon out of synch.
	And then we'll know the hooves,
	the drop down to
	the smack of shit and confetti
	on the lips.  The taste
	of tigerclaw and clownfoot.
And again in BRUISE:
	Today, a thought cut down
	by a slip on a wet drain
	sending flesh to smack against tarmac,
	a thigh smarting on impact.
ELECTRICITY, the longest and one of the finest poems in the collection, is divided into four parts: VOLTA, AMPERE, OHM and HARRY. The first three sections of the poem recall electrical pioneers, whilst the last section focuses on a pet hamster:
	A new evening swung itself around the house, drawing
	headlights through the garage door,
	picking out the edges of a hamster
	clattering around a wheel as if
	he were powering back up.
	As if to weave silver.
The long sinuous lines of TANTRIC invite us to consider that there are "many kinds of embrace." The poem describes the metamorphosis from "the pressed kiss" to
	the loss that opens the part of my throat
	I didn't know I had.
In MOLE the poet sees the world from the perspective of the creature:
	I build a supple chimney
	above a fossil's hearth,

	pulse a code
	along the vertebrae

	instructing the secretion
	of biography.
Whereas, in TRAPEZE ARTIST Curtis judges life as a trapeze artist where she had to rely on her partner's "long fingers" and his grip on her ankles. But when the circus is over, she sees her partner "anchor your life to another" and the poem ends with these melancholy lines:
	Every moment standing witness to
	your four feet stepping slow,
	will bring me closer
	to vertigo.
Her wrath here is rooted in the personal, rather than in the professional life, as she judges the choice people make for the way they live their lives.

In LUPERCALIA, Curtis slides effortlessly from poems of everyday to the celebration of the ancient Roman festival of purification and fertility:

	This is a night to go out,
	dare the wolves to circle.
	Beyond the fire their eyes
	Beyond those, breathing rolls back
	to a forest of fire
	shaped as the flights of arrows.
The final poem BEAN is a nature poem with a description of the natural cycle of the bean. The bean is "organ-shaped" gleaming
	the barely-pink of an eye-white.
The poem describes the garden
	plush with acorn-husks,
a toe that curls
	like my mother's
and the grandmother who has
	woven herself
	through the wool of my hat.
From these roots Curtis spins her imaginative brocade:
	if I could travel fast enough,
	I'd catch light sleeping
	under the sofa, I see
	misshaped beads, strings cut,

	clinking: a game of marbles,
	each encasing a morula.
	I expect a fine fuzz along the wall-paper,
	a leguminous smell from green Lego.
Curtis' writing is energetic and compelling; alternatively humorous, earthy and blunt with its delightfully descriptive metaphor and imagery. She writes with a pervasive and infectious joy of a life lived at full stretch, revealing in the poems a subtle intelligence.

reviewer: Patricia Prime.