Books From The Pantry: Cry Baby by Gareth Writer-Davies: Reviewed by Giles Turnbull

There is a sense of transport and movement in Gareth Writer-Davies’ poetry collection, Cry Baby. The pamphlet opens with the title poem which reveals a sense of disappointment that pervades the writing from start to finish:

I was not the imagined girl
ready for gingham ribbons and ankle socks
I was something else … a fist of a child
who bit my mother’s breast
and kicked out at rainbows.

In ‘Milko’:

the milk van delivered
dairy goods
for breakfast and pud
like a carnival float
the bouncing cargo
of gold and silver tops
danced in the crate
as if the party ends at the child’s front door.

These are very sparse poems, not weighted down with adjectives and adverbs; punctuation is rarely present and upper case letters are reserved for proper nouns. The poems are all short, the detail pared back to the bone. It creates a no-fuss remembrance of childhood from the adult’s perspective; a truth that invites no argument:

and when the little train stopped for breath
I came up for air
in Kentish Town
alone and inexact
my parents
two hundred feet below
lost in the puzzle of the map
(from ‘The Train Is Coming’)

The effect is not dissimilar to standing in front of Munch’s painting, The Scream, suspecting there is an immense story lurking in the unspoken words underneath the visible anguish. The poem ‘Child’ suggests that the feeling has persisted into adulthood:

I have grown used to the idea
and set a trap
using the window as a mirror

I am startled
by my own silhouette

Short as they are, there are some intriguing tales in this pamphlet. How the mother tries to escape by swimming the estuary to Ynyslas (in ‘Swimming At Aberdovey’), and how the child’s sister is kicked out of home for having sex with her boyfriend (in ‘Lilac Ladies’). There are moments of humour, such as in ‘Pyjamas’:

when once I saw a yellowhammer
and confusing it for a tennis ball
hammered it for six […] sometimes
there was a knock on the door
then I’d dream
I was walking the streets in my pyjamas.

When you read this pamphlet from start to finish, you really do get to experience the child growing to adulthood like you are part of the family.

Cry Baby by Gareth Writer-Davies is published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.

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