Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The stretching of wings, Suzanna Fitzpatrick's Fledglings

Suzanna Fitzpatrick's pamphlet collection, Fledglings (Red Squirrel Press, 2016) is first of all a gorgeous object, with limpid, expert typesetting from Gerry Cambridge and high production values that make it delicious to the touch.

What of the poetry itself? Well, Fitzpatrick mines a rich seam of pregnancy, motherhood and the raising of infants that has also provided an excellent source of material in recent times for the likes of Kate Clanchy and Kate Bingham. However, it would be unfair to pigeonhole her work, as its appeal reaches beyond the immediate subject matter.

It’s often said that elegies allow and even demand the poet to hunt for meaning and grope for words that might reflect an experience out of reach of language. Well, Suzanna Fitzpatrick shows that the process of birth, its build-up and aftermath, ranks alongside. Her images that make us look afresh at the universal events she portrays, as in “Quake”:

“…My pelvis groans

at the speed, an iceberg calving…”

And also in “Blazon”.

we are separate
I can touch you

the ballbearings
of your joints…”

This same knack for finding a resonant, satisfying yet somehow renewed image runs through the book, but nowhere more so than in its title poem, which begins as follows:

“I stroke the tiny kites
of your shoulder blades,
Imagine wings. Gingerly

I stretch my own.
It’s been so long
since I trusted them...”

This poem shows Fitzpatrick at her best, never seeming to strain or force her way towards something artificial. Instead, her verse is fresh but clear in its thrust, hinting at depths instead of shouting them from the rooftops. For example, the title poem might focus on her specific reaction to a shift in mother/child roles, but her expression of this experience invites her reader to a far wider reflection of the way dynamics change in families as years go by and generations are followed by generations.

Fledglings is a lovely introduction to a poet who’s already in control of her material and is capable of affecting her reader. Suzanna Fitzpatrick’s verse is deceptively broad in scope and I look forward to seeing her stretch her poetic wings in due course in the format of a full collection.

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