Poetry review – The Shipwrecked House by Claire Trévien

the-shipwrecked-house coverSome poetry collections seem to have a life of their own, and, I swear, The Shipwrecked House rasps and shudders with every thought it contains.

The overarching concept is endlessly alluring, drawing you into a world where air and water merge, and you’re as likely to discover a whale with your socks melting in its “comb-mouth” as you are to find “An anchor on every roundabout/ weighed down by corroding flowers/ to remind us that the sea will rise.”

That seems to be the message throughout, the idea that the waves have only loaned us the shore temporarily – and the poems amble inland and back out to sea, mirroring the pull of the tides.

Trévien’s love of, and adeptness for, language saturates the text throughout. The imagery is arresting, bringing to mind the wildest, wickedest kinds of fairy tales. A voice “falls like a coin to the ocean’s floor”, “breath opens like a stiff drawer”, and even the weather must decide “whether to burst/ or rapture itself away.” Irresistible.There’s a real air of exploration too, as ‘Journeys of Evaporation’, during which the sand takes human form, is followed by ‘Journeys’, which takes this idea and presents it in fractured lines that form the shapes of wave-distorted sand. Trévien plays with form in other poems too, shaping stanzas to mirror their inspiration or conjure up the rhythm that trembles through the lines. In ‘The Great Indoors’ a list poem becomes a paragraph of mundane terrors separated by, perhaps aptly, bullet points, and ending exquisitely with a moment of achingly naked vulnerability.

It’s an extraordinary power, this weaving of words to paint images so intensely that the mind’s eye is left reeling.

And no part of nature, or for that matter, humanity, is exempt from this vivid treatment – in ‘Beg an Dorchenn’, “The fields extend like an unshaven jaw”, in ‘The Fates’ pockets are “full of sweets glued to receipts and/black sand.”

These are poems that tell stories long into the night, paint pictures against the sky, and leave you with the taste of salt in the back of your throat. You’ll emerge from the pages feeling like you’ve just returned from an exhausting yet exhilarating visit to the strangest seaside you’ve ever encountered.

The Shipwrecked House by Claire Trévien is published by Penned in the Margins  and is available to buy from Amazon.

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