Hélène Demetriades’ The Plumb Line is a magnificent, soaring testament to the tenacity of the human spirit. These are powerful, visionary poems, attentive to the body and the dark and tender places of the soul. They probe our closest human relationships, and are both raw to harm, and deeply compassionate. By the end of The Plumb Line I found myself inspired and consoled by the human capacity for love, which is something beyond forgiveness, and by the power of poetry to interrogate, transcend and transform.
In these poems, the things of this world—’Persian rugs on parquet floors’, ‘a trough full of tadpoles’, ‘a gush-rock stream’—are imbued with an other-worldly richness. At the same time, the poems struggle and are grounded in the ordeals of childhood and growing up. The reader dips into this rich world with awe and wonder, ‘dangling our legs’, with the speaker of these poems, ‘in eternity’.
Hélène Demetriades’ courageous, gendered poems in The Plumb Line question how women are seen and not seen. Love and compassion float above a powerful undertow of violence and unease.
This is no fairy tale, the ogre is an only too real father, the pages ‘filled with his bounty and tyranny’. The fragility of childhood is laid bare in powerful poems that spare nothing in their startling physicality. A daughter performs a kind of alchemy and remarkably a love ‘scented with lavender buds’ survives the stoniest of grounds.