Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Minnows by Lizzy Stewart

There were indications that Lizzy Stewart had become a poet in Cardigan Heart, but now with her new work Minnows there is no denying the fact.  Lizzy emerges as a poet with her own distinct style-influenced, I suspect, as much by song lyrics and artists, as by the poetic tradition. She has a wonderfully fresh voice.

Minnows can be savoured for her beautiful illustrations, which at least, rival, if not outdo Cardigan Heart. It also contains some excellent poetry. 

You in the first instance, the opening poem, Lizzy presents a single moment in time. Two people on the cusp of a relationship. There is a clever use of the negative that informs the reader of how the relationship will develop. This poem sets the scene for the rest of the book. The accompanying illustration focuses on the feet of the lovers, the shadows their legs cast and the eye is drawn to a row of terraced houses in the distance. It is an effective statement of intent.

Throughout my initial reading of the book I was struck by the confident way in which Lizzy handles words. Whether she thinks so or not, I believe she is a poet. The second piece Every place I have lived presents eight line drawings of the places she has lived since leaving home. There is a colour coded list of people and events that illuminate her life. It is charming. I found this a very original take on the list poem.

Lizzy has an acute appreciation of the ebb and flow of life around her- the Big Parade, as King Vidor called it. We are all surrounded by the triumphs and tragedies of others and Lizzy captures this in a sensitive and respectful manner. In Cardigan Heart we had a series of illustrations (At 12.42) of what people were experiencing at a specific moment, in Minnows Lizzy presents us with Bravery and heroism on 27th May 2012, South London.  In the 12 scenes she presents we need text to understand exactly what is happening, and it is beautiful. Lizzy demonstrates that she has the eye of the poet and more than a smattering of the novelist.

Ok, it doesn’t all work; A Poem and Another Poem appear to have wandered in from an earlier stage in her development. But the other work, especially Minnows itself more than makes up for this.
We are presented with a man who is interested in river words and we are able to savour a selection for ourselves: pebble, pond skate; riverbed and their small illustrations. We are told:

The Minnows that shoal up the high street are not like the ones that he caught in a jar.

On the fourth page we are presented with a woman in a dress composed of the river and surrounded by reeds. It is beautiful. There is both joy and love here.

At the end of the book Lizzy states that she cannot really write, this is not, she claims what she does:

but gosh I want to write stories for you.

You have Lizzy. Thank you.