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Reviewed by Louise Essex
Goose Fair Night is a juicy and vibrant collection of poems in which Kathy Pimlott’s insightful observations of family, age, work and life in the Midlands are brought to us wrapped in flavours, scents and feelings. The pamphlet drips with the sugars of jams and jellies, like those in ‘Preserving’, but behind the surface of “astringent jellies” lies darker things that leave Pimlott “sticky with grief” (‘All the Way Here’). The success of the poems served up here rely on Pimlott’s striking ability to extract beauty from mundane images. And so, like in ‘Our National Bird’, we are made to wade “knee-high, / splashing” through the collection, looking with new excitement upon every day things.
Place is key in Goose Fair Night. Pimlott wants us to feel how places are ingrained into us, how they are part of us, as they are in ‘You Bring Out the Nottingham in Me’, the first poem in the collection. ‘Goose Fair’ takes Pimlott to “electric dark / beyond the caravans” while in ‘All the Way Here’, we traverse with her from Bobbers Mill, to the Ring Road, to Seven Dials. The seaside is also enduringly present – for Pimlott, the coast means chip shops and piers, like in ‘These Occasional Absences’. And in this poem, Pimlott can be found “fitting / [her] bones into the rocks” as she imagines herself becoming the place she inhabits. These wide beaches and seascapes are nicely juxtaposed with her parallel interest in small spaces, like the larder of ‘On the Difficulty of Working with Quince’ and the interesting spaces at work in ‘Things to Do in Small Spaces’.
In these places Pimlott upturns the ordinary in order to show us its beauty. And so, we see “celery like a bouquet in a jug” in Pimlott’s magical larder, and girls on a London night out who “jostle like a silvery balloon / bouquet tethered to a jittery child” in ‘Soho Hens’. Goose Fair Night is able to elevate the mundane to the beautiful, a testament to its author’s sharp eye.
Without the Enid poems, the collection might feel a little awkwardly strung together, but their presence runs a neat and familiar thread through the book. The Enid poems also bring another voice to the pamphlet, one which speaks from across the years with all of the traditional wisdom of a grandmother figure. And overall, peppered with Enid’s insights of “bombed bodies” from the war (‘Enid and Me’), this is a collection that crafts together the simple beauty of ordinary things, the sweetness of life and the danger and darkness behind the ordinary. Accordingly, Pimlott leads us by the hand through “honeycomb bones” (“Presbycusis”) and from “egg sandwiches” to “redemption” in the very same line (‘Out with the Girls’). This is a flavoursome collection of small, sweet gems complicated with unsavoury realities – it leaves you aware of your sweet-tooth and hungry for more.