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A Gust of Nostalgia with James Byrne, Wioletta Greg and Valerie Rouzeau

Posted by Paris, 25th January 2016

Innocence is a necessary instigator for the nourishment of poetry. A vital ingredient for keeping language fresh and alive. Today, we live in a world often lacking in sentimentality, compassion and empathy, finding it difficult to step outside ourselves and into the perspectives of others, yet the origins of perspective are deep-rooted. It's no wonder we find this almost impossible at times. But there is hope and warmth in this challenge, if we take a closer look at some of the subtle quirks of those around us (without judgement), we have a much higher chance of cultivating compassion and empathy.

In this respect, the three texts, White Coins by James Byrne, Cold Spring in Winter by Valerie Rouzeau and Finite Formulae & Theories of Chance by Wioletta Greg all deserve to be red-carpeted and relished in the world of poetry for captivating childhood memories with such breathless clarity.

James Byrne highlights this in his poem 'Like Sweet Bells Jangled Out of Tune and Harsh':

'Panicked, pigeon-livered,
you were a boy once, a tiddler with a latchkey, until
your father moved inside the photo like a chessman.'

A powerful image, one which feels as though it's been ripped from the guts. Byrne here, allows the reader to try on the scrapes of his childhood like a costume. As the reader, you become fully encapsulated by the images, which, feel like they stab you like shards of glass.

White Coins is incredibly moving, full of personal revelations and social satire. As we move through the poems it becomes evident that the poet is tapping into a type of hidden frequency - a series of meaningful mosaic tiles, which feel profoundly familiar to the reader. In this sense, the autobiographical details feel like a trick. Do these feelings belong to the narrator or reader? When the thoughts and feelings become tangled between reader and narrator, this is a strong indication of powerful, heartfelt poetry. It's all in the uncanniness of transference.

In Cold Spring in Winter, we leap so far into the mode of stream of consciousness, it feels like the readers own tongue, blurting out a series of somewhat painful and frothing memories, unpleasantly prodded to the surface.

Take, for instance, a line from 'My Dad They Operated On', translated from the French by Susan Wicks:

'Father beneath the azaleas,
farther goneunder the black
and yellow earth that gapes asunder'

Potent and lyrically charged, the words feel like a process of channelling a deep-seated psychological pain. Valérie Rouzeau is capable of implanting this into others, to help heal and recover through self-transcendence. By delving into the dislocations of memory and associations, we can clean out the murky waters of denial and confront them head on, in turn, this will hopefully lead to being able to look at the past objectively, with a sense of actuality.

In Wioletta Greg's collection, Finite Formulae & Theories of Chance, we are taken hostage by the ebb and flow of her memories. This is best illustrated in her poem, 'All About My Father':

'If memory serves right, fisherman with a burdock leaf hat, magician, who miracled fags out of spit, baccy and paper. In that smoke you excelled in beetle mythologies like the Tribolium destructor who lives in nut shells.'

In this poem, Wioletta, reinforces the incarnation of human fears through her striking observations. 'If memory serves right,' is a phrase of extraordinary grace, because it is left open to interpretation, Wioletta recognises her memories may or may not be the 'correct' truth, but a truth associated with an emotional experience, potentially blurring and distorting the lens of reality.

In Finite Formulae & Theories of Chance, it is Wioletta Greg's understanding of human tenderness, which directly relates to the innocence and vulnerability necessary for us to feel fulfilled and satisfied with our daily human connections.