A Warm and Snouting Thing
By (author) Ramona Herdman
Publication date:17 February 2020
PublisherThe Emma Press
'A warm and snouting thing' dances delicately between the sizzle of nerves brought on by proximity to sex and the ambiguous stability of commitment and family. These poems emphasise the physicality, not only of desire, but of the human and natural worlds which surround and shape it: springing ferns, 'saddle-soap / and saddle-sores,' and a vivid scene in which the speaker's mother boils alive 'two huge crabs, rough as roof-tiles' on a holiday with her husband and his lover. Herdman's voice is always precise, even at moments of the most brazen intimacy, whether staring at the backs of men's necks on the Tube across 'a little inch of shared air' or observing the 'patterned' flesh underneath the buttons of a corset. There are tales of teenage self-confidence ('vest tops in April') and adultery averted – but there is space here, too, for a settled life with a salad spinner, and a long-term lover's belly 'warm in its burrow'. The poet skilfully negotiates the twin pulls of the familiar and the unknown, generating a forceful and compelling charge from the energy of flight resisted. Extract from a poem: I thought it had gone – my sex-sense, the skin-thrum awareness when you feel through your clothes sex’s presence. But the nerves all down my left side sizzle. I can feel him through three inches of air. I’m humming with it. Not at all like an electric shock. Perhaps a bit like your naked tongue about to lick a battery.