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Gerrie Fellows
Window for a Small Blue Child
Carcanet Press £8.95


It is a marvelous facet of nature that when looking down upon something infinitesimally small, one realizes that it has all the characteristics and grandeur of something vastly huge. This is something that through her own experience Gerrie Fellows knows all too well; in Widow for a Small Blue Child the inner most workings of the human body become ‘a complex membrane of gullies and rock-fall’, clusters of cells are ‘glacial debris’ through which the book’s protagonists trip and stumble to find a near impossible dream.
The process of IVF (in vitro fertilization) treatment is handled by Fellows with both great tenderness and cold indifference; she explores with empathetic gentleness a couple’s emptiness in their search for a child and their bodies’ frustrating treachery by cutting into subtle, illusionary poetry with precise, soulless scientific language. It is largely these intrusions of science that make Window for a Small Blue Child so deeply moving; reading Fellows’ body landscapes and routine treatments we see how the body works in its own ways, strangely magical but painfully removed from love, desire and sympathy. For example these lines from the opening poem The Lily and the Egg - ‘dusky red light falls on the garden/codes pass along neural pathways/hormonal codes enter the bloodstream’ here there is a secretive movement of fluids, invisible whispers passing from nerve to nerve oblivious to the dark romance of a garden in a changing season, the body going about its own tactless agenda.
A particular oddity of this collection is its structure, Fellows has neglected the formality of punctuation, structuring her poems fluidly which gives them a peculiar constancy. While this makes Window… difficult to read at times, a diligent reader will uncover the strange spell of Fellow’s technique; the deficiency of punctuation leads us to guess at the points of stresses and pauses, decode moments of emphasis and poignancy, as a result the poems and essentially the IVF story is constructed and unfolded invisibly, privately to the reader, just as the image of the couple’s ‘dream baby’ begins to take shape and become solid inside the dark mystery of their own bodies. Fellows Also presents us with the peculiarity of sudden gaps in the middle of sentences, missing pieces of the body puzzle and symbols of the couple’s grief in infertility, the absent presence of a child.
There are relatively few poetic works that can be considered essential, but Window… is a rarity. It hits upon something in the vein of contemporary culture, namely how science has removed the heart of human experience, reducing it to calculation, measurements of chemicals and crucial timing. Fellows reminds us that the greatest enigmas (the life cycle, birth and death) are inextricably tied with magic, something that science has yet to understand. Gerrie Fellows is a poet of immense precision and eloquence, and no more so than here, as she captures every sense of human grief and desperation.

Catherine Woodward

 

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