Monday, 18 February 2013

Review of All the Invisibles (SPM Publications)

If you only buy one poetry book this year – buy this one. A collection so sumptuous and full of wonder, that I hardly know where to begin.  In her poems, Mandy explores the breadth and depth of human history and the natural world as vignettes of time.

 Here you will find a myriad of images and themes, mysterious and complex yet at the same time striking and simple. Each poem offers the reader the opportunity to enjoy the poet’s love of language for its own sake, or to scurry and research the meaning and back story to so many of the poems. I shall pick out some of my favourites.

 The first poem 'Best After Frost’ is a perfect opener - succulent and almost decadent in suggestion of the medlar as a “smutty fruit” it impacts on all the senses from the smell of ripe cheese “like Camembert” to  “the feel of rainfall in Montmartre”. By the end I really wanted to “suck this flesh and luscious rot” for myself.

 A millennia of time is contained in the twelve short intimate lines of ‘A Fossil’s Chirp’ where the reader is compelled to stop and listen “I have heard them at dusk, those crickets,” and consider their existence back into the Jurassic age.

 With a poet’s insight ‘Heartwood’ empathises with the “Firescar” of a burned out wood and like a lover, concludes at the end “There is still sap/ in heartwood   fecundity/    in roots.” This poem is filled with the longing of a ballad and the acceptance that life goes on.

 'Later, All at Once' seems to me to be the heart of the collection - a capture of its essence - a story within a story if you like – a microcosm nestled in the middle like a Russian matryoshka doll. The poem ranges backwards and forwards across history. Don’t try to know everything that has gone on in the poet’s head, but relish the journey on which you are taken.

 And so to the title poem – ‘All the Invisibles’. It sits enigmatically as the third last poem in the collection. Who or what are the Invisibles? They are everything you have been reading in this collection; they are nowhere and everywhere, mysterious and imponderable “as we wander the way of the shell”. Behind the landscape you are looking at is the landscape which you cannot see – everything that is under the skin, in the depths of the oceans, around the next corner, in the darkness of history and in all human emotion.

 But I have only begun to tell of what is on offer in this marvellous collection. Dip in again and again – a book at bedtime in each and every poem. It is a collection that you will go back to for years to come, and continue to find something new and fresh every time.

Eilidh Thomas






The poem ‘A Mesolithic Slant’ is in my recent poetry collection ‘All the Invisibles’ (SPM Publications)

The other day a friend phoned, interested in the idea in my poem about dining with angels. She asked me what I might do and say if an angel came to call.  I don’t know the answer to that, apart from thinking it would be essential to show welcome and hospitality as angels in stories and films appear to act adversely if not treated well.

I was also asked if I had any particular angels in mind in my poem. The answer is probably the ones who came as strangers to Abraham when he was in his tent overlooking the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (the angels were on their way to check these and other cities out with a view to total destruction if insufficient good men and women could be found). They also gave Abraham the startling news that his post menopausal wife, Sarah, would give birth to a child. When Sarah was told of this she laughed scornfully, thereby angering the angels.

More than this bible story though, my imagination was caught by the paintings of Roger Wagner, an artist whose work I love, particularly ‘ The Harvest is the End of the World and the Angels are Reapers’ and ‘Abraham and the Angels’.

Here is the poem and the images.


He’s on the cusp of revolution though he’ll never know it –
any more than voles in the barley who’ll breed a Scottish line.

All he can tell is that his world
(his scary and stinking-of-animal world)

is threatened by settlers who savage the pine
and turn wild boar into pig.

Just so does sunlight
shove its small beak through an earlier fog, lifting its face

to brightening air, like one who unwittingly
dines with an angel and cannot

be sure, for the rest of his life, if it’s fear
or elation he’s in.