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Margaret von Klemperer reviews Moira Lovell’s Speech after long silence

This review was originally published in The Witness on April 4, 2017.

IT is a real treat to have a new collection of poems by local poet, writer and teacher – and long-standing Witness book reviewer – Moira Lovell. This is her fourth collection, and indeed comes after a long silence. Although a number of the poems here have appeared in various journals, her last collection, Not all of Me is Dust, came out in 2004.

As one would expect from such a long gestation, and from Lovell, the work is meticulously crafted. While the subjects may often be mundane – monkeys in suburban gardens; shopping on pensioners’ day; rubbish bags by the side of the road; a visit to the aquarium; ageing or travel, her take on them is never predictable. Some are deeply moving: many are funny.

As Digby Ricci, the head of English at Roedean in Johannesburg, says in his introduction: “Moira Lovell has an enviable ability to defamiliarise; to make us see the world excitingly afresh.” He then goes on to say: “Such writing is wit in the fullest sense of the word: a wedding of humour, wisdom and learning.”

I would like to quote two poems in full, to give a flavour of what is a beautiful collection of work. – Margaret von Klemperer

Three Monkeys
They are female beggars –
Their babies held beneath
Like blackmail –
Positioned in triplicate
Along the ridge of the roof
Behind a gauze of rain
Which turns them into ghosts
Their eyes dolefully haunting
The far-below fare
That overspills the platters
Of the fortunate and festive
Bibulously braying
Bulging with indulgence
From amongst whom
A someone suggests
You should make a poem…
Like commissioning a painting
Of poverty.

Pensioners’ Tuesdays
The worst is not the aisles
Where supermarket trolleys
Double as zimmerframes
And dim eyes
Behind unfashionable frames
At the mockery of prices
The worst is not the queuing
At brisk-bodied tills
Where the assembled goods
Must be heaved out
And paraded
Like assorted luggage on a carousel
Where arthritic fingers
Fumble with banknotes
And credit cards
Wedged into wallets
The worst is
In the carpark
Where miscellaneous
Ageing knights
Don their rusting armour
Having abandoned all the rules
Canter backwards
Into the joust.

Not All of Me is Dust

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