Goose Fair Night by Kathy Pimlott

Reviewed by Grant Tarbard

Kathy Pimlott grew up in Radford, Nottingham under the yellow-fingered dusk of the Player’s cigarettes Castle Tobacco Factory, but has lived in London for the last forty years. Having abandoned poetry in her early 20s, she took up reading and writing again about ten years ago, luckily for us. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Goose Fair Night after reading the introduction by Clare Pollard, as the lines she quoted came across as tame, but her foreword proves prophetic:

Again and again Kathy’s poems show the enormity of the ordinary. Because of this, it is the details that will snag in your mind.

Snag they do: Pimlott’s bull’s-eye expressions are colourful barbed flies that lure me, the trout mouthed reader, to the surface. The cover of Goose Fair Night, published by Emma Press, is a sketch of the Goose Fairground itself, hot engine oil, hot sugar, illustrating the first poem, ‘You Bring Out the Nottingham in Me’.

The poem is marked as ‘after Sandra Cisneros’, and I can see this influence. Here’s Cisneros:

They say I’m a bitch.
Or witch. I’ve claimed
the same and never winced.

Here’s Pimlott:

You bring it out of me duck, you do, that mardy
Lawrence fuck. With you I’m Clough-strut right

The words fall like grapeshot, a bunch of syncopated roses. The poem is about all-present young love, that lingers.

You bring out the Hyson Green and Forest Fields
of me, Saturday night and Sunday morning love
bite signalled by a chiffon scarf.

‘Enid and the Peas’ reminds me of my great-grandmother, brought up in Edwardian England:

No, Enid said, don’t prong them individually.
You use your knife to squash them to your fork
held hump side up, not like a shovel.

Enid is a recurring character in this pamphlet. ‘Enid and the Toad’ is another starring role, which I find myself reading in a voice reminiscent of Dylan Thomas:

raw as fresh-sawn deal
seeding the sulky air.

But my favourite poem here is ‘Soho Hens’, about hen parties. It’s loving, tilted, gets with laser precision the loneliness of these once or twice (or even more) in a lifetime milestones marked with the event, the curious event sad as daylight tinsel:

They teeter in deeleyboppers, sashed,
from one fun to another, trashed
on Flaming Sambucas in the afternoon.
They jostle like a silvery balloon

If you want to critique it, yes the rhyme scheme is obvious, but that misses the heart of the work. It’s a love poem to human beings getting glammed up in fake diamond tiaras for the sake of fellowship, and this is the core:

they wheelycase it to the station,
wanting their mums, longing to be
in slippers, made a proper cup of tea.

We are never happy where we are now. It is an existential can of worms.

Lastly I would like to speak about ‘All the Way Here’, a travelogue of memories, with the poet exploring six roads that are important to her being. The first section, ‘Bobbers Mill’, is my personal favourite. Pimlott’s simplicity of phrase is easily readable, and her muse is fervent on this:

She hears me falling out of bed at night.
I play in her chip shop, spoiling paper bags
with nutty slack drenched in brown vinegar.

I like this book. It is tenderly written, with a fingernail dipped in mild acid. There might be detractors who do not enjoy simply written poetry – but what is “simple”? Look beyond the ink and you can see a world, that’s all a writer can ask of themselves.

One thought on “Goose Fair Night by Kathy Pimlott

  1. Having bought this after meeting Kathy and hearing her read with The Aldborough Eight at The Poetry Cafe earlier this year, I can concur that Goose Fair is a super collection which you really should own – this review gets it right.

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