Review - "Peripheral Visions" by Moyra Tourlamain

Steve Spence

“Peripheral Visions” by Moyra Tourlamain, pub. Oystercatcher, 32pp

I know little about Moyra Tourlamaine bar the brief information at the end of this chapbook. She has a Phd in Poetry from the University of Kent, is a translator of Paul Celan and has a particular interest in the poetry of W.S. Graham. The title is intriguing, suggesting something glimpsed, outside of the ‘main event’ and perhaps slight out of focus, penumbral. There is certainly a reflection on memory and brain function (Occipital Outcome) on alternatives to mainstream culture (Bugarach) and on film, as in ‘Reel’ though there may also be a hint towards musical form in the latter. What I most liked about these poems on an initial reading where I was blown away by the integration of sound and content, (or the relation between the two), was the wordplay and the manner in which an apparently easy-going conversational style could embrace serious thought, disjunction and be very pleasurable to engage with. On a second reading it seemed as though there was much going on beneath the surface or on the periphery in fact.


From ‘Reel 3’ we have the following which includes snippets of memory interlaced with snatches of folk song and song lyric run together in a manner which suggests a playful inner dialogue:


          hi-ho, hi-ho, hi-ho

          the little boat sails

          shine a light shake a leg

          in the string time, the merry


          merry string time

          when the dolphins sing and the albatross

          wings outstretched slip-streams storm-

          smash champagne phosphorous

          over the bridge not dying, never dying

          down the old green trough

          which cracks thank God before


                                                                                        the reel

                                                                                        turns turtle


          Pretty on the water, here. Boats.

          So much summer.

          Sue and Babs in swim suits plash

          into out of pink purled pleasures

          strike out after elusive Lilos.


The ‘misremembering’ of the lyrics feels typical of a textual strategy which mixes subjects in an ongoing rush which feels appropriate to how we recall events and images yet the whole is held together in a very skilful mash of sound and balance – ‘Drift words unhinged flopdowns homeless drop outs’ – from ‘Seven Peripheral Visions,’ for example, which is wonderfully sonic and full of resonance. From ‘Bugarach’ (4) we get – ‘Do we hope for some chartered busy chariot?’ – which is followed by four lines which combine a hint towards Plato with something more counter-cultural:


          Or pragmatic transmigration into flocks

          of supernatural birds whose eternal wings

          will soar us through the armies of avenging angels

          ladling destruction from their plague bowls?


Here we have a sense of the ‘spaced-out’ and the apocalyptic, appropriate perhaps to the times we appear to be living through.


The overall contrast between the tightness of construction and the mix of ‘moods and messages’ makes for an intriguing read, sometimes mesmerising, often deep and thoughtful and occasionally plain daft and delightfully playful. These are poems to enjoy and to ponder and Moyra Tourlamain is yet another new name to conjure with. The cover design by the consistently excellent Steve Xerri has wonderful colour and texture and hints towards a periphery.



Copyright © Steve Spence, 2021