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Poetry series: Callan Waldron-Hall on Amy Key

In this new poetry series, we're inviting a poet to present two poems - one of their own and a poem they admire by someone else - responding to our selected themes.

This week, we're exploring ideas from Liverpool-based artist Frances Disley's current exhibition at Bluecoat, Pattern Buffer, including: well being, self care, care for others, taking time and green spaces, among other themes.

 

Perfect Handstands

Callan Waldron-Hall's poem appears in issue 2 of Bath Magg.

 


How Rare

Amy Key's poem is available on The Poetry Foundation's website and in her collection, Isn't Forever, published by Bloodaxe Books (2018).

 

Callan Waldron-Hall on Amy Key’s ‘How Rare a Really Beautiful Hand Is Now, Since the Harp Has Gone Out of Fashion!’

When asked to nominate a poem aligning with themes from Pattern Buffer, I immediately thought of Amy Key’s brilliant ‘How Rare a Really Beautiful Hand Is Now, Since the Harp Has Gone Out of Fashion!’. This is a poem I find myself sharing with everyone; months ago, I stuck it up on the back of the staff room door, left copies of it lying around on tables at work.

It opens with this declarative, ‘Moisturizer is important to me like a car is important.’ The speaker demands this appreciation for self-care and leaves nothing to the imagination – almost everyone can understand why a car ‘is important’, and I quite like that. It holds off on clever enjambment*, on any tricks, presents itself as just exactly what it is. The stanza is built up of these concise, one-line facts, acting as building blocks for this authoritative voice.

Though Key does make excellent use of enjambment later in her poem: ‘I’m not yet old-old. Thinking of crystal decanters / makes me feel young.’ It offers us a unique perspective on age: that thinking of items an older person thinks about makes the speaker feel young, as they are ‘inscrutable adulthood’ and in a way, out of reach. In this, the speaker questions how we define youth and maturity, through physical means, and skincare products (‘My cult product / is an anti-aging self-emollient’), developing this idea of impossibly adult objects the speaker should not yet concern themselves with.

The speaker isn’t satisfied with feeling or appearing young, in fact, they are ‘looking for something foolproof’ – just like all the many adverts we see for age-defying serums and creams claiming to eliminate wrinkles, tauten skin – something ‘aplomb / that withstands the interrogating nude’. This closing line doesn’t present the reader with a solution. Simply, the speaker still seeks something that truly retains youth – with all that self-assurance from the opening line pouring into this pursuit for a miracle product or ideal – something they can rely on, something they can trust.

 

*this is a term relating to poetry that means the continuation of a sentence without a pause beyond the end of a line, couplet, or stanza.



Amy Key grew up in Kent and the North East; she now lives and works in London. Her first collection, Luxe, was published by Salt in 2013. Her second book-length collection, Isn't Forever, followed from Bloodaxe in 2018, and is a Poetry Book Society Wild Card Choice. She has also published two pamphlets, Instead of Stars (Tall Lighthouse) and History (If A Leaf Falls Press). In 2014 she edited an anthology of poems on friendship between women, Best Friends Forever (The Emma Press).


Callan Waldron-Hall grew up in Leicestershire and now lives and works in Liverpool. His poems have appeared in Magma, The North, Bath Magg and Orris Root. His debut pamphlet Learning to be Very Soft won the New Poets Prize and is published by Smith|Doorstop. His poetry project exploring ASMR's place online, More Concerned with Feeling than Sense, featured in the Liverpool Independents Biennial 2018 anthology, Post-it.

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