A Three Drops Review
Lapstrake by Wendy Pratt
[Reviewed by Caroline Hardaker]
Published by Flarestack Poets, Lapstrake by Wendy Pratt is a short poetry pamphlet exploring the loss of a little girl, and how our narrator’s emotional flow is mimicked by the sea tide, pushing, pulling, and ultimately leaving you powerless.
The title of the pamphlet – Lapstrake – refers to a method of boat building, whereby the edges of hull planks overlap, called a ‘land’ or ‘landing’. This technique has been used for hundreds of years, and each plank has to be incredibly precisely crafted to fit with those alongside it in order to float. Once fitted together, this little boat can navigate the whole ocean. In a similar sense, Pratt has been just as precise when crafting her pamphlet. No sentence is wasted or wanders, and though the overall theme of the collection is a seemingly never-ending (yet transformative) loss, her lines are concise, to the point, and accessible. The poem of the title name reflects the importance of strength in closeness:
‘The hull planks overlap, they land
against each other and nest up
as fishermen must do’
When pulling together, this tiny boat can withstand the forces of a great sea which seems alive – ‘the waves that butt / against each other and nest up / are creatures searching’, a sea that pours through to ‘Hellheim’ (the Viking version of hell).
Mythology and history appear frequently thoughout Lapstrake, as the collection includes mentions of Viking lore, mermaids, and Norse mythology. Sea-life plays a part in the shift of loss, as we see our narrator distant as the seagulls ‘static / and strange in the night sky’, ‘salted / and wizened; a dead star fish / or a shell’, and then she ponders the child-like freedom involved in the evolution of dolphins. Similar earthly yet almost unreal imagery is used to refer to the child she has lost – ‘My little sprat, my gill-less fish, […] my squid, my jewel / in her mermaid’s purse’.
Pratt studied Biomedical Science at university and has worked as a Microbiologist for some years, which might give some context to her skilful method of combining science with the supposed.
When reading, you feel very much anchored to earth, yet you’re glimpsing past that into a sprawling timeline, when we can experience thousands of repeating life cycles.
Lapstrake is moving, haunting, and very, very real. Much recommended.