I’ve been drawn back into reading poetry of late and when Lizzie Fincham asked if I’d like to review her collection Green Figs and Blue Jazz I jumped at the chance.
Published by Cinnamon on 1st June 2017, Green Figs and Blue Jazz is available for purchase here.
Green Figs and Blue Jazz
The narrative arcs of love and loss, sex and death, with the constant interplay between time present and time past, unite this deeply affective collection from widely published and award winning poet, Liz Fincham.
Structured in three acts, Green Figs and Blue Jazz moves from a winter solstice, gathering memories of a relationship in which the signs of transience and mortality appear in retrospect, to a central act in which loss comes to the fore so that every place, each object, even the mud on a pair of boots becomes a stark meditation on what has gone, what might have been. Finally resolving in a final act in which memory, dreams and hope conspire to remake the past and give substance to possible futures, this evocative and rich collection moves full circle, ending in advent with the world still waiting.
My Review of Green Figs and Blue Jazz
It comes as no surprise to me to learn that Lizzie Fincham comes from the Gower in south Wales as my immediate response when opening this wonderful collection of poetry was that the writing made me think of Dylan Thomas. I was also strongly reminded of Gerard Manley Hopkins and Seamus Heaney, such is the quality of Green Figs and Blue Jazz.
I found this collection incredibly moving. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why, but the odd word or phrase reminded me acutely of people I’ve loved and are no longer here and the poems gave me that indefinable Welsh feeling of hiraeth that I was first introduced to by my Welsh husband when we met 35 years ago. There’s a desperate longing and deep sadness behind many of the poems.
Lizzie Fincham uses poetic technique so effectively to convey the memories and emotions threaded through these poems. The enjambment of Clinical Trials, for example, when the disease is apparently unstoppable, contrasts so beautifully with the short, brief lines of Heading For The Coast and the concept of travelling light and leaving much behind. The fragmented end to Iron filings stopped me in my tracks. In two words at the end of the poem Lizzie Fincham has encompassed exactly what losing a loved one, and forgetting briefly, feels like. She uses an iterative image of nature and plants throughout so that I felt I understood something about the man who is gone as well as a brief hope that there could be new life in the future in the same way nature is able to regenerate and fill a vacuum. I thoroughly enjoyed the references to other poets, like my favourite Donne, and the arts so that these poems thrum with colour, music and image – all the things that help create memories for us.
I loved the way the poems in Green Figs and Blue Jazz are divided into three Acts like a conventional drama, with the first one setting the scene of the cause of the grief so sensitively depicted in Act Two. I found the emotions so intense that I had to stop after reading Elegy for a man because the tears were streaming down my face and I couldn’t see. In Act Three, the grief is still so present but there is hope. There are moments when life does continue and the writer forgets – almost. Equally, the memories seem more controllable but no less vivid.
I found Green Figs and Blue Jazz profound, moving and beautiful. I think reading these poems is genuinely life affecting and they definitely touched my soul. Amazing.
About Lizzie Fincham
Lizzie Fincham was born in Gower and married in Wales. She has two daughters. Her poems are published in Cinnamon anthologies, Envoi, New Welsh Review, The North, Poetry Wales, Poems on Hoardings (National Museum of Scotland). She has been shortlisted three times for the Bridport Poetry Prize and Highly Commended twice for Poetry on the Lake. She was invited to and encouraged at a Masterclass at Ty Newydd by Gillian Clarke and Carol Ann Duffy. Her tutors for an MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway (for which she received a distinction) were Andrew Motion and Jo Shapcott. Currently she is reading for a PhD in Creative Writing at Swansea University supervised by John Goodby. Her mentor for this collection was Jan Fortune. She thanks all who have supported her on this journey.
You can follow Lizzie on Twitter.