Book Review: Entangled Islands, by Serie Barford

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each story will be framed by lines of latitude and longitudecv_entangled_islands
so I can locate myself and my discoveries over time – Entangled Islands

The opening title poem of Serie Barford’s Entangled Islands frames the collection as a whole within itself. It outlines the seven sections that make up the collection in its own stanzas, revealing the parts of the poet’s life that she chooses to use in her writing. The book turns into a poem of its own as we slowly start to see the embroidered stories, piece by piece, framed by its beginning.

The first frame starts  in an unusual place, the birth of the poet, and her subsequent life as a baby. It creates a feeling of surrealism, as the strong ‘I’ that is used throughout asserts itself as the authority on this subject. These moments before memory are written with the certainty of someone who experienced them with absolute clarity. From the hospital birth in ‘Into the wold of light’ to the feeding habits in ‘The promised land,’ the first person voice remains certain of itself. At the end of this section, however, Serie brings the poems into a more present time, as she reveals something about herself. I don’t understand why my parents christened me ‘Cherie’ / when my Samoan grandmother couldn’t make the ‘sh’ sound / when grandma died I changed my name to ‘Serie.’ These last few lines lend a lot of power to her words, an emotional confession that forces the writing from a moment of infancy into a more serious mode.

It is interesting, then, that the next section is comprised of one prose piece and one poem, where the first is made up only of poems. The prosaic writing instils a more concrete feeling into the collection, where entangling images give way for storytelling and description. This continues for the rest of Entangled Islands, as Serie switches between poetry and prose as she moves into more reliable memory. Here we are faced with a child surrounded by her family, to a mother living with her own children. Abstract thought and memory mix together, moving in and out of each other as this shift in writing occurs. Each prose piece feels like a memory, each poem a thought, woven together beautifully by Serie.

Towards the end of the collection, as Serie writes about her dog Sirius, she asks herself in ‘First light’ What memories will I take with me into the long night? What sights or scents or sounds will impress my final breath? And this is it. Her poetry and prose are a part of the answer, and she reminds us of this as she remembers her relatives who have passed on in the beginning and the more recent passing of Sirius at the end.

Entangled Islands is a stunning collection that weaves together memory with impressed images, reality and fantasy, past and present, all tangled together within her poetry and prose.

Entangled Islands
by Serie Barford
Published by Anahera Press
ISBN 9780473330828

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