Notes from the Pop-Up: Fear of Poetry II, The Poetry of Fear

Notes from the Pop-Up: Fear of Poetry II, the Poetry of Fear

The power of art to scare us is something our friends in National Theatre Wales can perhaps more easily understand. Actors often relish the opportunity to play a subtle villain. Set and costume designers heighten a dark ambiance. NTW use of locations in Wales is particularly striking. I saw a rehearsal of ‘Coriolanus’ on the steps of the Assembly Building in Cardiff Bay, one cloudy afternoon and the cold, the dark slate steps, the proximity of the powerful, added to that play’s themes of political machination, power grabs, generational conflict.

Poetry can also reach into the darker realms. BBC Radio 4 recently broadcasted snippets of Seamus Heaney reading his version of Beowulf, the terror of that dark ages parable still palpable. Seren has recently published a verse-novel by Ivy Alvarez called ‘Disturbance’ - the book’s central incident is a horrific double murder/suicide, based on an actual case. Alvarez has imagined a kaleidoscope of voices surrounding the crime, from the neighbours, police, detectives to intimate family members.

What surprised me about this book when Ivy submitted it in manuscript was the fact that it so thoroughly transcended the usual mode of occasional lyric and read like a murder mystery. What also struck me was it’s succinct portrait of a case of domestic violence that escalates into murder, an all too common occurrence. Here is the opening poem:

Inquest

Members of the family wept

as the coroner read out

her pleas for help.

Nothing softened as they cried.

The wood in the room stayed hard

and square.

The windows clear.

The stenographer impassive.

The spider under the bench

intent on its fly.

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