Book review: There you are by Roger Huddle

Sarah Fairbairn reviews a ‘vibrant’ debut by a Walthamstow poet

Credit: Jim Jack/Paekakariki Press

Roger Huddle’s slender yet internally expansive collection, There you are, is organised into sections that give immediate insight into the workings of the poems: Music, Art, Life and Love.

The longest poem in the collection, First time, offers a grounding in the contrast of influences, experiences and even historic eras that move within Roger Huddle’s verse, playing Bach against Coltrane and reading Ginsberg in a world of ‘back-to-back greyness /we’ll meet again some bloody day stiff upper lip bullshit’.

Though thrumming with life, these poems are nostalgic, exposing the poet as a young man, discussing Vietnam and having his friends visit him in what he calls ‘my false life’, perhaps speaking to himself later in the same section of book with the words ‘you thought /yourself hard but you were innocent’.

Despite their purported topic of ‘music’ these poems seem more to share the theme of change, of loss or of disappointment. ‘I’m overtaken by/ a sense of melancholy’ a later poem, Lunch in Canada Water confesses, ‘as I realise that / I no longer care for /this music, finally heard/ one too many times.’

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The second section, Art, delivers a surprising change of pace as its opening piece explores the thoughts of Elizabeth Jeffries, a woman who murdered her abusive uncle in 18th Century Leytonstone.

The poems in this section work differently from those on music – the earlier poems vibrate with a jazz-like energy while these, focussed on art pieces that might be familiar to the reader, adopt a more measured rhythm and style. ‘You could of course take / whatever form you are using…/and let them fall where they will’, Huddle teases in ‘algorithm for dada’, ‘there is a good chance /you will have a poem’.

But it is the final section, Love, that reveals the real heart of this collection. The seven poems of this part are each a heartbreaking meditation on family, on precious memories and on the certainty of loss.

The poet writes of his mother ‘transformed by frost, /indistinct, disappearing’ as she pegs out laundry in the garden, and of his father ‘white hair head on/ a white pillow… reduced to this moment – and gone.’

Huddle is clearly a poet concerned with these moments of change in every day life, and the collection speaks to itself with a vibrant mix of certainty and wonder.

There You Are, published by Paekakariki Press, is available at book stores now

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