ALTERED STATES by Catherine Fisher


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Twenty-one shorter poems in Fisher’s third collection often provide a startling twist that creates a pang of delight and surprise, while three longer works allow for that and a fuller narrative exploration. “Amnesia,” a stunning six-poem sequence, explores the experience of having no memories other than “running down a street / behind the beating of my heart,” while “you can’t remember what it is you can’t remember.” In “Four Fragments for Lent,” Scripture bumps up against contemporary event, but it is the nine “Estuary Poems” (about claims of homeland versus immigration) that succeed most vividly. Here, Fisher’s economy and elegance shine as she describes the assimilation of Celtic peoples as moving from “Home known, home heard of / home receding into legend, and all the while / unnoticed, this is home, and no-one says it / till the moment’s gone, the strange / collective calm decision taken.” By this process, “a people can drown a people, gradually, / gently. Without a ripple.” And yet they are not fully drowned, for the poet, the one who knows the “moment when the words all stand in line,” rides off on a ghost-boat to Avalon. Fisher’s richly imagined and musical poems show disciplined verse that relies on its own internal logic. For example, “Cat Lane” uses quatrains to subtle and allusive effect: “Fog lives here. It slinks against walls, / lithe, muscled, never heard. / A drainpipe ticks in the yard, / each drop wobbling as it falls.”

These delightful poems weave myth and dream in new and lyrical ways sure to please more than one group of readers.

Pub Date: June 30th, 2000
ISBN: 1-85411-273-2
Page count: 64pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2000