I Never Think Dark Will Come by Susan Jordan

My review of I Never Think Dark Will Come originally appeared in issue 63 of The Journal.

Things abound in the first book by Susan Jordan, which takes as its focus the corporeal and tangible. ‘Let us praise little things, the use we make of them,’ Jordan declares in ‘Laudemus’ (the Latin for ‘let us praise) and it’s an instinct that drives most of the collection, so much as that, at times, the work resembles an arcane catalogue of trophies, offered to the reader with a sense of totemic resonance.

The treatment of objects is a rich field for poetry, from the perennial fascination of artistic objects in ekphrasis, through to Francis Ponge and his Voice of Things, and the now, somewhat forlorn, Martian School, where everyday objects were codified into a misdirection of language (it’s a goal post! it’s a book!) like presenting a series of lame shadow puppets on the side of a tent. Thankfully, there’s none of that latter approach involved in Jordan’s work, which is very much about treating the thing as a thing, and exploring that thingness, albeit somewhat exhaustively. A chess piece, a matchstick, a waterlily; even clouds, in all their nebulousness, are anchored in the tangible ‘like ruched cotton wool, / twisted, folded, pleated.’ Not all of this is surprising: this is less defamiliarization than anchoring in the familiar, perhaps, overly so. For the sheer bloodymindedness involved in making poetry out of the unpoetic, I was drawn to ‘Industrial Process’:  ‘The technology is simple:/ a few pipes, a stopcock/ a door with a good seal/ operatives to make sure/ they all fit inside.’

The thing about things is that they become mute objects of our impressions, and without some sort of witness statement, their significance can be forgotten. I started to wonder where all the people were, and what characters had handled these objects, what lives. And when they do appear –  a gardener, a man handling a yellow star, a woman from Dartmoor legend called Kitty Jay – in contrast to the objects, they seem strangely elusive, while the reporting ‘I’ is often as steadfast and resolute as some of the things. One of the rare occasions when Jordan breaks this mould is in the opening to the title poem: ‘all I am is pulse and heave/ waves altered each moment by light’. It’s a luminous moment of shiftiness in the compendium of objects, a sense of mutability on the part of the narrator, that provides a sense of the abstract amongst all the solidity. 

Overstep Books 978-1-906856-89-2

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