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REVIEW: Maeve McKenna reviews 'Sin is Due To Open In a Room Above Kitty’s' by Morag Anderson




Scottish poet Morag Anderson’s debut pamphlet, Sin Is Due To Open In A Room Above Kitty’s (Fly On The Wall Press), is a tour de force of honesty and courage. Anderson has resisted any attempts to soothe the reader, yet these poems nurture with lush images, fearless themes and a musicality of voice.


Poems echo off each other, exploring the vast struggles of living. Credit must be given to Anderson's poetics; rich language and imagery, the sense that while many poems allude to troubling themes of violence, patriarchy, poverty, ill-health, bereavement, family discord, within the restraint of the poet's voice we are escorted along from one poem to another, made more aware of our human struggle, how while poetry may challenge, it can also offer a sense of comfort.


The opening poem, ‘Two Doors Down’, is unsettling, an important poem of witness. We are aware from the opening lines we may need to steel ourselves. The pace of the poem is crucial. ‘But when sleep/snuffed his household/he slunk from stagnant sheets/placed a hesitant hand/upon the doors rise/and crossed the lilac carpet/to finger the pink candlewick/. Powerful word choice and imagery offer the reader a glimpse of something deeply troubling and painful, yet we are invited to sit with the words to find their true meaning, and by doing so, allowed to discover the truth of the poem at our own pace.


This collection never burdens, traversing poems of devastation and devotion, humour and heartache, with a fluidity that carries the reader.


Later in the book, the poet addresses the issue of ill health and grief. ‘DNR’ and ‘Glasgow Coma Scale’ are relatable to anyone who has watched a loved-one battle serious health issues: ‘flickering lids/journey the geography/of sixty-seven summers/I run cold water to drown/the sound of relief/’, a moment in so many lives captured here in a quiet manner. In Glasgow Coma Scale Anderson writes: ‘first on the scene, emergency services/score you six and leave without me/’. The sheer desperation of this opening line, allowed to breathe itself into the following lines, culminating in the devastating last line, ‘you already knew and kept it from me’. It is clear the poet possesses a deep understanding of the challenges of living.


Many poems in this collection are controlled in their poignancy, showing the poet's ability to convey emotion without over-sentimentality. ‘Shaping Words’ is a beautiful poem of observation. Here is a writer who understands the power of restraint. ‘Your fingers twitch/ this is how I know you are sleeping/’. Anderson is a poet deeply aware, searching among the small happenings of life where poetry quietly dwells.


The title poem, with others, hints at abuse, ‘I sober to a new man/in the hot seat/a rotting carcass who reaps/the benefits of greed’. In ‘Two Things I know, Father Byrne’, clerical patriarchy is addressed, the speaker defiant and unapologetic: ‘the size of the needle’s eye/through which I am observed/will remain unchanged’.


The closing poem, ‘I Was Once a Girl in a Fountain, Splashing a Boy’, uses imagery deeply rooted in nature, ‘waves thrust upon canvas’, ‘October light pulses the river/reddens a single rosehip’, the poet observing her practice of writing and the demands that places upon her. This is a daring collection spanning many themes, yet there is continuity throughout, the poet’s lyrical voice moving deftly among a variety of topics. This debut pamphlet from a poet with a courageous and bold voice will haunt and heal long after reading. Ultimately, these poems act as a balm to the hurt of being alive.



 

Morag Anderson is an emerging Scottish poet based in Highland Perthshire. The relationship between land, sea, and people influences her writing. Her poetry has appeared in Popshot Quarterly, Skylight 47, Finished Creatures, Fly on the Wall, and The Scotsman as well as several anthologies. She was shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize 2019, and has won Over the Edge New Poet and the Clochoderick Poetry Prize. As part of Hamish Matters, she performed at StAnza Poetry Festival 2020. She is a member of the poetry collective, Poets’ Abroad.


Maeve McKenna lives in rural Sligo, Ireland. Her poetry has been placed in several international poetry competitions, published in Mslexia, Orbis, Sand Magazine, Culture Matters, Fly On The Wall, Marble Poetry, Boyne Berries, Black Bough Poetry, The Café Review, among others and widely online. Maeve was a finalist in the Jacar Press Eavan Boland Mentorship Award 2021, a recipient of two Arts Council of Ireland Literature Awards in 2020/2021 and a student bursary attendee at the John Hewitt Summer School, 2021. She is working towards her first collection of poetry.

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