I READ a poem to see the world through someone else’s eyes, to think the world through someone else’s thoughts, to feel the world through someone else’s heart. I read a collection of someone’s poetry because I trust their voice, their mind, their heart. I read their poetry because it makes the world feel more like home and makes me feel more whole.

Poetry is nourishment. Sometimes we need the soft gooey words of a Valentine’s card, the comfort of Shakespeare, the wit of Wilde; and sometimes we need the poems that will hit us in the stomach with the uncomfortable thuck of contact.

One only has to look at the cover of this book to have some idea what the reader may be letting herself in for. For those of us with clown phobias the picture gives us the sense of playing with sinister overtones, a place where we dare not relax. The title, Thuck, gives us a sense of play with dangerous undertones. One of Peter Macrow’s strengths as a poet is his sense of play which can be seen through his use of ambiguity, irony and making the sound of things convey the meaning and the tone. ‘Thuck’ implies that much loved ‘f’-word which can be used as an adjective, a noun, a verb, a form of punctuation, and can be used endearingly, as a joke or a threat. Such a title readies the ear to listen.

Peter is a linguist, composer and musician.  He is also an acute observer with an eye for the telling detail, and an ear for the dialogue which encapsulates the essence of a story or a person’s point of view. Let me read you a poem:

A darkness more welcome

When I was about 10, I visited my younger sister
at the Blind Institution.  We sat out in a tram
they had as their playhouse.  I didn’t have any news.
This is boring, she said.  Please don’t come again.
I’m not afraid of the dark.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Think on the title, a darkness more welcome, we don’t usually associate darkness as a welcome thing, and what is it more welcome than? The title puts us in a mood of reflective questioning and prepares us for possible ambiguities. The poem is a story simply told, we can picture these children sitting in the tram talking. We become children again with all our memories, the times we were inarticulate, out of our depth, and felt the world fall away beneath us. This stark story of a very personal incident resonates through all our lives.

Another simple poem:

Grave Concern


She said she’d read a poem
every week until Peace came.
She wasn’t there this week.
Were it always so quick.

The title sets up an ambiguity; ‘grave’ implies both a furrowed brow, and the last resting place. Concern echoes the furrowed brow and intent of the poem to discuss something serious, something which we should be concerned about. The poem tells of such a simple intent, in simple language, which contrasts with the complexity held in the word Peace with a capital ‘P’. Then we have the one liner, of which Peter is a master, which is the thuck of the poem hitting the target: ‘Were it always so quick.’

Another seemingly simple poem:

Once


Get out of my house,
Mum said to his floozy.
Make me.
It was the only time
I heard my mother swear.
You filthy trollop,
I’ll kill you, she said.
It worked.

Once again the title, Once, gains our interest; is this something set in the past, or something that needed to happen only once, and if so, why?  The title has prepared us for a reading of the poem. The dialogue is short but evokes a novel narrated by the onlooker. The choice of words such as ‘floozy’ and ‘trollop’ indicate a great deal about time, setting and character. And once again, the scene echoes through all our lives, real or imagined.

Peter has a particular perspective born of pain and disability, as the poem says, he tells it:

Like it is

life   death
pain
sandwich

It is a perspective intolerant of bullshit, and knows the power of truth and beauty to transcend the human condition. He challenges us to see truthfully, to forego the lies we tell ourselves to make things and people bearable. He challenges us to see it as it is and to say it as it is. He takes the known and turns it on its head so that we may really see it for what it is; as in his poems:

Say

The pen is mightier than the sword,
but a bomb will really blow you away.

and,

Experience

Life is not a poem
or if it is
it needs more work.

His haiku poem is an example of truth and beauty in three lines:

full moon
in bed
I eat another chocolate

Peter also has a childlike whimsy that knocks the cynic out of us:

The Wash

I cleaned the bath.
I had to.
It had blue-green mould.
It must be nice
being blue-green mould,
washed away to the sea.

and

Like in the Picture

Why are the orange fish
in the clouds?

Why?  What would you prefer?

Angels.

He also has the ability to choose the perfect image as in the poem ‘Recall’ where he explains dementia: ‘telephone memory/ is about the only memory/ she’s got now,’.


It is my great pleasure to be able to launch Peter Macrow’s collection of Thuck into the world.  May it travel well and true, and its poems find many homes.

As Peter says in his poem ‘Book Fair’,

If you only by one book
buy mine
it will make you smile
not laugh
laughter isn’t wise
violence isn’t wise
smile like the pink under-petals
of the white rose
before it falls.

  Picaro Press, 2007.

Liz Winfield Launch speech of Peter Macrow’s chapbook Thuck


It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Think on the title, a darkness more welcome, we don’t usually associate darkness as a welcome thing, and what is it more welcome than? The title puts us in a mood of reflective questioning and prepares us for possible ambiguities. The poem is a story simply told, we can picture these children sitting in the tram talking. We become children again with all our memories, the times we were inarticulate, out of our depth, and felt the world fall away beneath us. This stark story of a very personal incident resonates through all our lives.