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Review - "Two Twin Pipes Sprout Water" by Lila Matsumoto

Andrew Taylor

“Two Twin Pipes Sprout Water” by Lila Matsumoto, published by Prototype, 2021.

Occasionally a press comes across one’s radar and immediately draws you in. Prototype is a relatively new press formed in 2019, with a mission statement to ‘increase audiences for experimental writing.’ Following her debut collection, Urn & Drum (Shearsman, 2018) it is pleasing to see another Matsumoto title hit the shelves.

Another statement from the publisher contained at the rear of the book, notes that ‘Each publication is unique in its form and presentation, and the aesthetic of each object is considered critical to its production.’ This is very evident with Two Twin Pipes Sprout Water. The book, a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for Winter 2021/2, contains five sections with sequences of poems, prose poems and illustrations.

Matsumoto is tuned into the notion of what poems can be. There’s evidence here of the playfulness that was on offer in Urn & Drum, but in a more obvious way.

If we turn to the section ‘EyeBread’, each of the seven poems is accompanied by a line drawing/illustration. No poem is longer than three lines and is centre justified on the recto, the title and drawing is located on the verso. This works well. That aforementioned playfulness is at large in ‘Abducted Mushroom’:

Tuesday, mouldy as
an abducted mushroom.

This is amplified by the drawing of a bench to accompany the title.

Matsumoto isn’t concerned solely with humour or abstraction. There is an underlying level of seriousness at work too. Again, from the ‘EyeBread’ section ‘Swaying Token:’

Monday, udder: undulate to swipe milk out.
Splash on a finger’s squeeze, pink-driven.
Udder in screen, a swaying token.

A statement on cruel farming practices? A look back at a more innocent time in animal rearing? It’s not especially clear. Perhaps clearer is ‘Night Slugs’ from the same section:

Thursday, night slugs. The house striped
with fine white trails. Escort them out of the
house on a potato crisp.

These short poems which form the centre of the book, lead nicely to the next sequence, ‘Evening fast out the window’. Again, there are short poems, though this time they are uncentred and hug the top of the page. These snapshot poems, precise and delicate in places are skilfully honed:

        Peace Lily

        A shy face, being so small and delicate. This was my girl,
        her empty shell.

Matsumoto again points to those wider environmental concerns in the ‘EyeBread’ section. Cows make another appearance in the section’s titular poem, as they ‘walk in a straight line along the / field. Green, yellow green, dark green.’

There’s a shift at the end of the poem, something that occurs through this section as well as throughout the book. Matsumoto is adept at shifting images. The final lines continue with the use of colour and perhaps in reference to the poem’s title, focuses on those fleeting moments: ‘an orange windsock / stiff in the breeze. An airport.’

The section ‘Rouleau of songs’ builds on Matsumoto’s musical background; she’s a member of the bands Cloth and Food People.  

The opening poem of the sequence, ‘or new’ highlights once more, Matsumoto’s quality. The finer details are brought to the fore in the opening stanza:

           Shaded gold, morning’s deliberate sequence
           Stitched so the metal shows through
           Foregrounds small upright figures
           and a glade seaming with sorrel

This is a wonderfully varied collection, perfectly weighted. It’s a real testament to Matsumoto and her publisher, with their noble intentions. This is a fantastic book, that like the best films or albums, keeps the reader wanting to start it over, again and again.  

Copyright © Andrew Taylor, 2022

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