For Example by Rosemary Norman [Shoestring Press] is unusual in arranging its poems in alphabetical order of title (as I believe the author also did in her previous collection Italics) rather than aiming to have a thematic or linguistic link between successive poems. Nevertheless I had no sense of awkwardness or unevenness as I read through this collection (admittedly a short one, at only 34 pages).  In fact, the thought did intrude that the poems had been carefully arranged according to some internal logic and that the titles were assigned afterwards.  That would be consistent with the sometimes playful nature of Norman’s poetry which is in any case enigmatic, elusive and difficult to categorize.   She has a knack of sounding confident even when expressing doubt or speculation: For years now I’ve pretended to be good looking / and let them make what they can of it [‘Collyer Syndrome’]; or  I might / with a blow to the head / come to believe / what’s good for me.  But she also does interesting things with situations and ways of speaking that are all too familiar:  If I’ve told you once I’ve told you a thousand times / She says, she says, she says, whatever it is / she’s told me  [‘Counting to a thousand’].  In ‘Wail’ a crying child on a bus prompts her to speak, and with assurance, / for all of us, when giving permission to Wail child while you can. / It is permitted to the innocent // whose wail has no subtext. Wail for us.

Other poems which stand out strongly include the dark villanelle ‘In memoriam’, one of whose repeat lines is The air he died in travels round the building, and the anthropomorphic ‘I, hen’ which speaks in a voice somewhat reminiscent of that in Les Murray’s ‘The Cows on Killing Day’: Oh the loud-headed-/and beaked  / choir of / me. Also deserving mention – but very hard to illustrate without extensive quotes – is the title poem (appearing midway through the book) which comments in advance on the poem which closes the collection.  Let me explain she begins, encouragingly; and then she invites us to Take a poem of my own which may help us understand her claim that what we call one another / is a disturbance in ourselves.  This is far from straightforward but it is wonderfully intriguing stuff; and For example is a collection which becomes increasingly enjoyable on second or third reading, perhaps as we become more immersed in Norman’s highly original poetic imagination.

London Grip