Profit and Loss, By Leontia Flynn
The sum of all her tears
Sunday 28 August 2011
In her third collection, the Northern Irish poet Leontia Flynn reckons up life's failures and small triumphs, its profits and losses, first of all in a section devoted to the rooms of her past.
The subtitle, "A Gothic", gestures to a tendency to register the menace underlying the domestic, where even a Creda cooker is "spooky white" and its "pull-down door...seems to open on a greasy tomb".
One poem begins: "I once lived in the house of an infamous death." Try as she might to detect a "macabre frisson" from the murder scene, the poet finds that "the past remains dust". But there are real tragedies to go with the vicarious ones: a birth-damaged uncle; and her mother's sister, killed as a child in an accident. "Colette" ends, vividly: "We tuck your little shoes, now yellow with age,/ like a breech birth in the soil of granny's grave."
Woven throughout is a persistent thread of humour. Part Two is taken up by a single, long, rollicking poem, "Letter to Friends", which muses on Ireland's recent financial disasters and their effects. It begins, engagingly enough: "It's summer. So of course torrential rain/ has fallen now for days." In retrospective mood, the poet sifts though junk: "A 90-minute tape/ filled with sad songs; a battered filofax/ and some notes for countries long since using Euro." As that "sad songs" indicates, here is a poet forever oscillating between the misery and joy of life, with an engaged, watchful sensibility.
The last section seems the most arbitrary, beginning with "Five Obvious Catullus Versions" and winding up with poems about motherhood and her father's Alzheimer's. The final poem concludes with "those figures up there, smiling, in full view". Bathetic maybe, but it shows that profits – just – outweigh the losses.
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Games of Thrones actor Lena Headey makes emotional promise to her unborn daughter
- 2 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 3 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
- 4 Female Muay Thai champion hustles coaches to give them a beating
- 5 16-year-old girl beaten and burned alive by lynch mob in Rio Bravo, Guatemala
Eurovision 2015: Graham Norton returns with another cutting commentary - his best lines
Eurovision 2015: The best moments from Australia's random entry to Lithuania's gay kiss
Clarkson, Hammond and May Live: Top Gear trio returns with a blend of fireworks, AC/DC and 'automotive pornography'
Eurovision 2015 winner: Sweden beats Russia and Italy to take the title from Conchita Wurst
Eurovision 2015: Estonia seemingly enters Louis Tomlinson from One Direction
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
Report finds that Britain's wages are the most unequal in Europe
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland