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Review: The Disappearing Room, by Mara Bergman

Bergman's The Disappearing Room... is an intriguing piece of work. Born in New York, Bergman "fell in love with England" (her words) when a visiting student at Goldsmith's in London and has lived in England "for many years". The most immediately striking thing about this book, for me, was the 'enumerative' manner which Bergman often favours. The opening poem is called 'Inventory at the Apprentice House (Quarry Bank Mill, Cheshire)' in which she lists the numbers of those who lived and worked there, how long they worked and many other facts, plus what was not there, too:

Sixty girls in all, ages nine to eighteen, sleeping
in pairs, one room crammed with thirty beds,
not a single fire, but a window overlooking the courtyard:
one water pump, three privies with a bucket holding straw

and so on for a further sixteen lines.

'Things' - quotidian details - are largely left to speak for themselves, and they pack a powerful punch. A similar method underlines some other poems, such as 'The Tailor's Three Sons', 'The Photographer', 'Stereoscopic' and, particularly impressive, 'The Photographer Visits the Dutch Masters'. Other poems are less enumerative. I liked especially 'Girl with a Pen in Her hand' which touchingly remembers the poet's discovery of the Bront√ęs, But for the most part, the best poems here are full of inventoried 'objects'. Bergman's work is readily accessible, while being both intelligent and tender. It is questioning, but rarely perplexing or obscure.