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Review: The Disappearing Room, by Mara Bergman

JONATHAN DAVIDSON, The North, No. 63, Jan 2020

In the title poem of Man Bergman's collection, The
Disappearing Room
, we are offered the spectacle of
what I assume is an interactive display to demonstrate
perspective (we are at the South Florida Science
Museum, West Palm Beach, so this sort of figures).
Although the disinterestedness of this poem -the cool
analysis, the non-conclusive language - is not typical
of Bergman's poems it perhaps reveals her process:

because we want her to, because we pull
the strings. She heads towards centre
as if towards some natural disaster.
We are doing it and cannot free her.

in many of the poems It is this compulsion to look
closely and then at a distance, to move perspective
and viewpoint, that offers us insights from unexceptional
subjects. A series of poems in the collection
are from 'The Photographer's' viewpoint and there
is a poem about a projectionist, and paintings and
painters feature too and there is a constant detailed
observation of the external. Here is the beginning
of 'Landscape':

The language of this landscape is sugarbeet,
thick, white, with Fine concentric circles that dare you
to bite into centre; it's

the deep sea of cabbages stretching to
farmhouses saturated with light,
red brick, Dutch gable, wingbeats of gulls

Wonderful stuff; painterly but more.
While Bergman Is able to maintain a neutral, enquiring
stance, a good portion of her poems chart her own
life, from childhood in America to acquiring a life in
England. She is able to look at both parts of her personal
history from across an ocean. Her poem 'East 13th Street
or How l met my Husband' is a gorgeous spooling-out of
state-side detail ending with the breathlessly charming
synchronicity of:

I would not have seen him standing in the doorway
of his friends apartment on East 13th Street and
thought Yes.

Chance plays more than a part here, as It does in
'Instant Replay' (which I have just now written out
into my commonplace book), a poem that is filmic in
its intensity and made me drop my own son a text to
check he is fine. It would be vulgar to quote it here, so
I will only say that it is simply about parental love and
the fear that comes with it. It is typical of the whole
collection: absolute attention to detail, emotion held
in careful check until the final moment, a controlled
poem that is completely approachable. This, and so
many other poems, makes for a very fine first collection.