Tuesday 1 September 2015

Driven repetition, Kim Moore's The Art of Falling

Take a long, deep breath when reaching for Kim Moore’s first full collection,  The Art of Falling (Seren 2015), because you’ll be tumbling with her from the first page onwards through her intoxicating verse.

Moore’s signature poetic technique is repetition. Her work is riven with it and driven by it. There are certain poems that even make explicit, conscious nods towards its use, such as “A Psalm for the Scaffolders”:

“…a psalm for the scaffolders
who fall with a harness on,
who have ten minutes to be rescued,
a psalm for the scaffolder who fell
into a clear area, a tube giving way,
that long. slow fall, a psalm for him,
who fell thirty feet and survived,
a psalm for the scaffolder
who saw him fall…”

Moore’s strengths in her employment of repetition are various. She repeats phrases with slight variations such as in the tense of a verb (“fall” and “fell”), which invites the reader to home in on those small changes. Meanwhile, the repeating of whole structures such as the poem’s title empowers the piece as an invocation. And then there’s the building of clauses in the continual use of “who”, generating a pace that combines with the afore-mentioned invocation to lend this poem a religious charge. In other words, form and content fuse superbly.

Poem after poem, repetition crops up:

“..a fall from grace, a fall from God,
to fall in love or to fall through the gap…”

“And if it be a horse…
…And if it be a swan…
…And if it be a tick…”

“A curse on the children…
…a curse on the boy…
…a curse on the class teacher…”

“And if you saw her…
…and if she set fire…
…and if she threw…”

“…as if one person can’t carry this with them
and be unchanged, as if I could speak seagull…”

And I could quote umpteen more. However, it’s important to underline that Moore is far from being a one-trick pony. There is variation in tone, of course, alongside a deft narrative touch, a gift for delicious turns of phrase and a fabulous ear, as befits a music teacher. Nevertheless, repetition rules for much of the book, creating the sensation of a relentless emotional thrust, charging onwards, seeking an authentic core.

In The Art of Falling, that core is to be found in “How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping”, a sequence about  “a relationship marked by coercion and violence”. This sequence lies at the heart of the collection. I could highlight any one of several pieces for their power, for their capacity to move and affect, but a personal favourite is “His Name”. Here are the first four lines:

“Because they tried to make me say your name,
the shame and blame and frame of it,
the dirty little game of it, the dark and distant
heart of it, the cannot be a part of it…”

And there’s that repetition again, in Moore’s gorgeous use of the definite article. Of course, it’s even better in the context of the poem as a whole, but you’ll have to get hold of a copy of The Art of Falling to see what I mean. Just keep in mind that piece of advice I gave earlier: don’t forget to take a long, deep breath when snapping the spine.


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  2. I'm also enjoying this book! About two thirds of the way through.