Fontanelle by Helen Sheppard opens aptly with ‘Opening’, a poem that deposits us directly in the most intimate of situations – a birth. We’re at the business end with Sheppard, guiding a person into the world with all the gunge and wonder it entails.
And herein lies the power of Sheppard’s poetry. As a former midwife, her awe at this daily miracle is evident, even garlanded in the gravy of bodily excretions. Far from shying away from squeamish sights, Sheppard celebrates them for their essential role in our most earthbound and miraculous acts.
“A gestation reaches its timely conclusion./ Her muscled hammock softens, slackens./ I am with her wet slit, hands quiet, ready.”
In Safe Harbour we meet a person yet to breathe: “You flex and stretch/ and wallow in water,/ all bump and tail./ You tether, then float,/ wriggle to sea sounds”.
The writing is visceral, yet tender, each layered emotion wound in with exquisite tension.