Book Review, From Doll House Windows by Lorraine Carey


From Doll House Windows, Revival Press, Limerick, Ireland, 2017, ISBN  978-0-9957333-5-0. £10/$15/€12

 

From Doll House Windows is Lorraine Carey’s first collection. Lorraine’s poetry appeared in Issue 10 and I was very pleased to have the chance to read more of her work in this book.

I enjoyed this collection very much. Lorraine Carey has a great ear for language, and her descriptions are succinct and powerful.

She deals in intimacy; miscarriage in 11 weeks, 5 days  where for her “Hope was chipped away” while in the opposite bed  six feet away was the searing sight of “the brunette’s elation with her bump.” And in Doll parts on the Shore, the lost child haunts her in the shape of a broken doll with “A white head and glassy eyes/of aquamarine.” Then we meet childbirth, in Your Late Present, “I opened/ like a slow flower on your birthday”, so there is beauty amongst the “frenetic…spasms….squeezing her out”, and the painful adjectives.

There is much pain in this book. Her childhood in the cold and tiny house that gives the title poem From Doll House Windows”  where, for now, her unborn sister is in “the safety of her amniotic sac”. How rapidly that sister changes into “a giant doll/with a grimace, in place of that beaming smile” in At Your Wake. it is interesting to see the precision of internal rhyme, which is one of the features of many of her poems, and the stark description of “your green skin”, “your coldness”, the “few little treats/Two purple  Quality Streets..” popped into the coffin.  She relates how her sister is depersonalised in Funeral Rights, with a “stuffy sermon could’ve been for anyone, anybody,” her age mistaken for thirty four not thirty three.

As well as these sensitive  observations, we also see her family and  her domestic life. Her daughter, Elise, loves to paint but also in Birdwatching  is  engrossed in her bird book and “gentle cooing.” The poet following gran “like a little chick” in Collecting Eggs, memories of sleigh rides and Christmas, of swallow nests hosed down, licking the cake spoon… but the nostalgia always has bite. Old age brings dementia in Walking Nowhere, the terrible “melting back into a whelk,……convinced he’s a boy again.” What can be done but to observe and record these horrors?

This is also fine landscape poetry, rooted in her harsh scenery, and her observations as an artist inform all of this work. in A Rail Trail she observes “Distorted trees like upturned/umbrellas crowd dry fields.” She evokes Kinnagoe Bay, with its “rocks….dressed in velveteen moss”.  She records her travels, too, with Ipsos Beach, Boston Common, the view of an undamaged North Tower, World Trade Centre  above “New York’s scuffle”; always dark times in the distance, future and past, like her homeland in Whirling in the Grey.

There is only one very small criticism. There is such a joy in the internal rhymes and alliterations that they can perhaps come too much to the forefront , as in Christmas Firs, where the virtuosity of “Crackling logs spat sap from a fire/banked up with coal and peat./Intense heat pinched pine needles loose,/falling daily as they fragranced the room,/shocked our sockless feet….” is almost too rich?