‘Unstill Mosaics’ James Walton – Reviewed

Reviewed ByEmma Lee

Emma Lee delves into 'Unstill Mocaics' by James Walton. Emma's publications include “Ghosts in the Desert” (IDP, UK, 2015). “The Significance of a Dress” is forthcoming from Arachne. She co-edited “Over Land, Over Sea,” (Five Leaves, UK, 2015), is Poetry Reviews Editor for The Blue Nib, reviews for magazines and blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.com.

‘Unstill Mosaics’ James Walton

Busybird Publishing, Australia

ISBN 978-1-925949-10-0, 102pp

Subtitled ‘The Book of Love, Loss, and Longing’, ‘Unstill Mosaics’ is a collection of enduring love, loves lost and lessons learnt to a soundtrack of jazz, particularly Miles Davies, and Leonard Cohen. An early poem, ‘16 or 75, 46xY’, acknowledges imperfections, 

‘I know you dislike statistics
but the missing variable
was only ever us

and if I could play
the perfect instrument’

There’s a sense of one acknowledging the differences in a relationship and longing to make it work by moving towards perfect. The musical metaphor continues throughout the poem. However, it does look as if only one partner is making an effort. There’s another mismatch in ‘A Wonthaggi Coal Miner’s Daughter Says’ as a couple are tracking deer,

‘standing up holstering her safety on
puts a finger to a lip then mine
hand against my mansplaining chest
says she doesn’t follow to shoot
but likes to know where things are heading’

The poem could be describing the relationship as well as the tracking. The ‘mansplaining’ and her ‘likes to know where things are heading’ suggest a communication problem and a relationship heading for trouble. 

Lost is touched on in ‘Sunsetted Clauses’ although the title suggests a romantic poem, 

‘a girl I loved
dead early on a Sunday morning,
a car in a suburban chance roll
over the edge of Hailes Street.

Langy knows we still blame him.
His life of laying bricks
the string line’s quiver
a darting mouse,
the memory of water in hay
fleeting scent of flax.

He’s mixed only cordial
these foundation decades,’

A life-long regret from a moment’s mistake. The long ‘o’ and ‘a’ vowels give the poem a slower rhythm and echo the poem’s sense.

Not all the poems use a first person narrative. There’s a section that experiments with other voices, such as ‘Diary of Anne Boleyn’, whose ‘ladies weep in the vernacular tongue/ kneeling in the French style’ as she waits to be beheaded, her punishment for treason, 

‘away from the predator and papal manoeuvring

a scavenge of royal alchemists pecks to parts
the once kindest knit of souls

the loins of a king are as common as any man
tempested wings erupt impatient there’

In a court of people jostling for position and the king’s attention, it’s a reminder the king is still human and liable to be guided by whoever holds his ear. But there was love there once.  In ‘Kissing Helen Mirren’, the narrator watches a car go down a road but fail to return as he remembers a friend who boasted of kissing the actor in 1969 but failed to take it further. 

‘Unstill Mosaics’ is a collection of gentle, considered poems themed around its subtitle that doesn’t shout for attention. The poems request a slower rate of reading, allowing for each poem to be absorbed before moving on to the next.