The Long Acre by Frances Corkey Thompson

-Reviewed by Julia Bird

It rains heavily in Frances Corkey Thompson’s Long Acre. ‘Rain blew in’ in ‘The Beeches at Pickwell’, ‘it’s often raining’ in ‘The Garden’ and the rain in ‘Fiat Deus …’ is ‘god-awful’ and ‘hammering’. When the poet looks through the window, through this blurring rain (‘I witness through glass’ – ‘The Garden’, again) to whatever lies beyond, it’s when her vision is paradoxically the clearest. Unfiltered topicality and anecdote is presented too starkly in some of her less successful poems – the ‘sensible colour’ of ‘Looking For My Mother in Marks & Spencer and Finding Her’ only serves to illuminate a moment where the generations mistake themselves in a mirror reflection, and we’ve all seen this too many times in poems before. It’s when she squints or looks sideways at her subjects that her poems are strongest. Speech bubble spouting human beings in ‘Stonechat’ are a barely felt presence, and the poem’s delicate unpuzzling of avian identities is all the better for their absence. ‘It is look, and oh!, and flit, // all sense and verb’ – this is the merest nudge towards a contemplation of what it means to name and be named.

The collection’s keenest pleasures are autumnal – muted colours and dimming lights. The gentlest investigations of ageing, memory and mortality bring a chill in the air … but frost is what makes the apples sweet.