The Only Reason for Time, Fiona Moore’s particularly courageous debut, takes the reader through a very honest and insightful depiction of the poet’s agonizing struggle following the death of her beloved husband. Written days after his death, the opening poem “Postcard” marks the early stages of her grief. Thought-provoking comparisons of both colours and textures reinforce her underlying confusion, conveying the absolute vulnerability of the stricken mind:
the counterintuitive, industry standard
grey metal latch to be clanged backwards;
the bolt with a spring that’s always too strong;
the soft warmth of an old chain, brown stream
through fingers, binding the post with a hook;
the double gate’s hard-edged central loop.
Throughout the collection there are numerous references to colour, setting the tone for several of the poems. Shades of Plath’s poetry resonate throughout in both technique and mood yet, in relation to loss, Moore is much more accepting of her grieving than the late poet was ever able to be. Each poem in the sequence describes different stages in the process of grieving, from the enormous contrast of colours in “Postcard” to the lonely, numbing blues of “To the Moon 1: New Year’s Eve”. The white emptiness of “O That Insistent Thought” mid- way through the collection finally give way to the vast array of hues in “The Third Day of Fog”. This last poem indicates Moore’s eventual acceptance of her loss, and her arrival at a place where the prospect of a liveable future seems within reach.
For this reviewer several poems jumped out as being particularly important, one of them being ”IOIOIOIOIO…”,
Your death works in a binary mode
On/off, forget/remember –
a cold code to decipher,
too late for us.
Your death kills me a thousand times,
the tyranny of repetition –
A short poem, but what astounding force, a force which leaps from the page. Indeed, by using contrast to play out raw emotion – only in this instance with verbs rather than colours or textures – these lines encapsulate a considerable range of feeling in taut syllables without ever being repetitive in technique. This poem speaks through rumination and repetition, a structure which carries on throughout as poems switch between those exploring memories, and those which capture the immediacy of comparatively transient emotions. It would be near impossible to trek through the dark depths of grief without tumbling over and over events, emotions, and what ifs: the journey through the collection echoes this repeated emotional raking.
The collection signs off with the fortitude and hope of “To The Reader”, denoting the final stage of the cycle of grief: acceptance. In the third stanza, the line “no transparent material is transparent” draws the reader in with what initially seems a contradiction, yet the poet has laid bare a truth. She knows her husband is there in spirit, despite no longer being visually or physically present. The final stanza holds a heartfelt message “From time to time one of them reaches for more//wood, and throws it on the fire. Your flames leap up.”
This is an extremely powerful, deeply moving collection, which will hold the reader throughout. If there are some poems which stand out as significantly stronger than others in the sequence, then that is to be expected. The whole journey is well worth taking.