This review is taken from Stand 231, 19(3) September - December 2021.

Martina Evans, American Mules (Carcanet, 2021)
Andrew Jackson, The Voyage of St Brendan (Bloodaxe Books, 2021)

For Martina Evans, poetry is a direct route to events in history. The epigraph to American Mules, her tenth collection, is provided by Groucho Marx: ‘[t]ime wounds all heels’. It’s an appropriate quip: as we step forward in time, we can use our poetic feet to revisit open wounds. Evans is also noticeably concerned with podiatry. In ‘Plantar Faciitus’, the first section of the book, she finds a note from her mother complaining about a pain in her heel:
I’ve got it now. I’m the age Mammy was then.
It must be my years.
Only her pain was worse
with varicose veins and standing long nights
after ten children.

We shouldn’t be too surprised of course to see a poet interested in feet. Evans uses her prosody, her poetry, as a delicate weighing up of the relative merits of the rhythms of the vernacular and of established forms. It is a process which enables her to compare her mother’s experience with her own. She balances the recollection and the emotions of the moment with the conscious craft and control of writing a poem. Her reference to ‘ten children’ might itself be a nod to her ten published collections and a continuation of the mother/daughter comparison which contains the following explicit image of her mother ‘balancing’:
I felt for her, I couldn’t bear,
the purple grapes clustered on her shins,
the good leg and the ...
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