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This review is taken from PN Review 194, Volume 36 Number 6, July - August 2010.

RIGHTS OF PASSAGE KERI FINLAYSON, Rooms (Shearsman) £8.95
ARDA COLLINS, It is Daylight (Yale) £10.99
LESLEY HARRISON, One Bird Flying: poems from the Great Road (Mariscat) £5

It is sometimes good to be proved wrong. I have harboured a suspicion that poems about film may be one-dimensional. But Keri Finlayson’s arresting first collection uses film as an entry to new dimensions, ‘Rooms about rooms’, just as the flat patterns in the book’s intriguing illustrations produce ‘froths’ of dresses.

It is simple to list the elements of Rooms: Cornwall, a rebellious girl, an early film-maker. But this gives no impression of the assurance and richness of Finlayson’s poems. The language of film becomes, in sharp word-play, three-dimensional, as her defiant grandmother ‘unreeled her hair/ And made that final cut’. Often focused on art, Finlayson’s work is made spacious by an almost religious sense of light. She contrasts ‘artificial light’ with the ‘eternal sun’, rendered exquisitely. An eclipse creates ‘a hundred trembling peacock eyes’. The range of her poems can be glimpsed on opposing pages. In ‘Casting’, a girl is two-dimensional, ‘cut from this world’. In ‘Cornish’, the girl becomes embodied by luxurious language: ‘The air was so sweet she swam in it’.

Rooms accommodates horror. An appalling beating by a lay-preacher father is rendered as film directions: ‘Dissolve to:/ Her back […] a silver peek of bone’. Yet a short poem on the opposite page floats into transcendence: ‘O to make sense of the world/ Now that it’s mediated by light’. For Finlayson is not happy to rest purely in the dimension of the literal. With typically subtle rhyme, she accuses photographers, ‘with ...


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