The plumb line distils so much emotional depth and human significance – moments whose ripples spread out across a lifetime and beyond – they really spoke to me, There is real strength in the poet’s honesty and vulnerability – her openness to grief too: poem after poem in that first section, from Thumb Talk, Ghost Mother, On Being Sent Away to School (that shocking first line) The Arrival (with that unforgettable image of the swaying trunk like a coffin), My Sister Takes A Happy Family Photo (the final couplet is very powerful), the utter shock of Appeasement, the deep unease the poet communicates in My Funny Valentine. I think she writes with a lot of craft as a container for and communicator of all that has happened to her – a potent distillate. And such a distinctive accessible voice.The second section continues in this vein: so many poems (like Grace, with its stunning final quatrain), the beautifully observed Becoming Invisible for instance, and the very moving final section about the poet’s mum and dad – poems I have returned to many times – that image of the alembic! – the mystery and power of Your Last Hours…’Ultimate mysteries blown to the widest wonder’: the plumb line trying to fathom the meaning of itself.
At one level Demetriades’s The Plumb Line is about growing up with issues around mother/father and boarding school, at another it delves into the redemptive nature of love and complexities of being human.How does a child learn to love if she feels abandoned and her gender is unvalued? We follow the narrator, from early years in the Swiss mountains to the ‘desolate’ south coast where she’s packed off to board, her ‘trunk sways like a coffin’.The book is, like the best plays, in three parts: ‘arrival’, ‘gravity’ and ‘departure’. At the heart of the book, Gravity means weight, importance and falling, but also the force pulling bodies together. As in families, lovers, becoming a mother.The final section, caring for dying parents, bring touching insights. The title poem is particularly effective. A plumb line is an axis pointing to the centre of gravity, but in the biblical sense it’s also the standard by which people live. Like family. So, when her frail father actually thanks the narrator, she tells herself: ‘it’s the plumb line between us.’Exquisitely, the poet sings her dying father out in Sanskrit and finds ‘his eyes are polyhedrons’, the way we all have many faces, and the end line: ‘I’m gazing at the mask of a Greek monster’ surely both references her father’s Greek blood, and suggests she has seen behind the mask.Read this and be moved, warmed and inspired!
These courageous poems leave me in awe, and the transparency of emotion is breathtaking. Visceral, authentic, and deeply emotive. I am breathless. The poet manages to seamlessly weave poetic dexterity with raw, transparent emotion. A truly brave and skillful collection from a highly talented poet. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
I read this at one sitting – totally captivated by it. It deals with powerful, difficult emotional experiences with a gentle deftness. Loved it.