A copy of this review also appears on the Write Out Loud website
It is always reassuring when you pick up a book of poetry and it’s immediately obvious that the writer is entirely at home with the concept of crafting her work, and equally at home in presenting the image which stays in the mind.
… this is the time of day …
where the breath moves
like a child among overcoats.
Julie Mellor lives near Sheffield and holds a PhD from Sheffield Hallam University. Her first pamphlet Breathing Through Our Bones was a winner in the Poetry Business 2011 book and pamphlet competition, chosen by Carol Ann Duffy.
Reading Mellor’s new pamphlet Out of the Weather, from the illustration on the front cover, Turtle Doves by John James Audubon, to the bleak imagery of the final poem, ‘Life: A User’s Manual’, is a deeply moving experience.
Mellor focuses on the particular in her poems - lodging houses, wasps, swans flying overhead. We think we know these things as we think we know the places mentioned: Woodhead Pass, Holme Moss and Emley Moor high-lit like the “sun on slate” view of the Sheffield skyline. But her imagination, her ability to see things new, takes us to another emotional plane where possession battles with love and security is pervaded with ominous threat: “I see you walking across the marsh.” (‘Grace Notes’).
It is the kind of danger that may well have been laughed off in youth, like the car with four student friend passengers overturning at speed and rolling down a bank, an incident celebrated the following night with a “fireball from a box of matches / a pub trick that set my face alight.” (‘The Scar on my Wrist’)
But not all experiences can be flippantly discounted. Maybe those we encounter in later life have a deeper resonance and can be more surely reconsidered through the use of extended metaphor, as in ‘Aftermath’ where one person exists on the surface of the moon while the other hurtles towards Earth hoping to reach supersonic speed, to lose consciousness with the ultimate aim of being in the position to “not feel anymore”.
Eventually, looking back becomes a more sober reflection as in ‘Here’ where memories of the past are economically collected; deprivation, celebration and faith are assembled before the inescapable conclusion,
… where family
is still family, though most are long gone.
I read this collection in one sitting, although there were plenty of pauses to let images and significances register. Then I read it again, acknowledging Robert Frost’s definition of poetry which “begins in delight and ends in wisdom”. Julie Mellor’s poems are delightful, they are imbued with wisdom and they are certainly thought-provoking. This is a collection I will continue to read and re-read.
John Irving Clarke
John Irving Clarke is based in Wakefield and is a published poet, short story writer and novelist. He tutors an adult creative writing class and leads writing workshops. He is a co-organiser of the Red Shed Readings spoken word event and edits the Currock Press website
Julie Mellor, Out of the Weather, Smith/Doorstop, £5