I’ve been a fan of Roy Marshall’s poetry ever since I read and reviewed (see here) his first pamphlet, Gopagilla, which Crystal Clear Creators published back in 2012. He’s now on his second full collection, The Great Animator (Shoestring Press, 2017), and his development has been startling.
The Great Animator brings us a poet in full maturity. First off, there’s Marshall’s talent for producing endings that provide satisfaction but then unsettle and open out beyond the text. One such instance can be found in the final lines of “Expresso”:
“…His heart, once as easily excited by this dark syrup
as by a lover’s touch, has grown steady, accustomed.”
This extract also provides us with a fine example of Marshall’s mastery of cadence. He has a keen sense of the weight of every syllable, together with a delicate control over the ebb and flow of language.
The collection is packed with terrific narratives. Moreover, Marshall has learnt to home in on the pivotal details that make a story come alive, as in “Thaw”, in which the first stanza sees a grandson waiting outside “by a patch of snow/that’s losing its grip on gravel. The final stanza, meanwhile, invokes a mother’s offer of “a little ice-cream” to an ill grandmother, leading through to another excellent ending:
“…She nods, though both of you know
it’ll melt untouched while she sleeps.”
In this poem, Marshall is inviting the reader to compare and contrast two different thaws, all tied with the drip-drip of three generations. The invitation, of course, is implicit.
Perhaps the most striking poems in The Great Animator are those that portray Marshall’s work as a Coronary Care Nurse. Their strongest quality is their invocation of empathy, as they enable us to connect with the person that lies behind the health professional, casting new light on the patient-doctor/nurse relationship. One such poem is “Carrying the Arrest Bleep”. Again, its final lines are terrific:
“…and when the registrar asks
if we agree to stop, I meet
his eye, and nod.”
The above extract offers us yet another of Marshall’s “pivotal details”: the human meeting of eyes, as the people behind the jobs are revealed.
In The Great Animator, Roy Marshall demonstrates the technical and thematic skills of a mature poet. He’s come to trust not just himself but his readers. The least we can do is get hold of a copy and be thankful for the generosity of his poems.