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Review: Still Life with Loops, by Eli Tolaretxipi

The Basque poet Eli Tolaretxipi is fascinated by Elizabeth Bishop, whose work she has translated, and one poem in her book, using Bishop's title The Fish, is a tribute to her. Still Life with Loops is Tolaretxipi's first publication in England. The central concerns of this selection from her two collections are the difficult and shifting relationships with parents and lovers, and the alternating feelings of emptiness and suffocation they produce. Oblique and coded references become explicit, as in Father:

I note the dream of the father
who is giving her a lesson in fucking. In another dream there is a woman
who is teaching, but it is not the mother. I thought
I had killed him.
I do not know who she is.

and in Mother:

Once I wanted to write as if I were her
in a grey, bestial, oppresive world.
I went so far inside it that I had to
It was like returning to the womb and
taking the role of a pregnant woman,
looking through her adolescent eyes
in the photographs that she showed me.

The visual arts are very important to Tolaretxipi, and there are many mentions of painting and photography in her second collection, The Loops of the Figure. The precise tone of her voice, and the intriguing nature of her thought and perceptions, are characteristically expressed in this complete short poem from that book:

Nothing happens in the way that it happens in the poem.
It is the same in the photograph
which only says: I was there.
Something extraordinary and ephemeral happens:
a rainbow in the dishevelled hair of the wave
a whirlpool around the feet which are sinking in the sand
black body on a surfboard.
Untimely precipitation
black signs on the white and ruled page.