Loudness by Judy Brown
reviewed by Rachel Down
Let this be what it is – great writing
Judy Brown hails from Cheshire, grew up in Northumberland and Cumbria and studied English at Cambridge and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. She has worked as a lawyer in London and Hong Kong. She now works part-time and lives in Dulwich and Wirksworth, Derbyshire.
‘Loudness’ was published in October 2011 and was shortlisted for the 2011 Forward/Felix Dennis award for best first poetry.
If I could write poetry these are some of the poems I would love to write.
Judy Brown sees, hears, says and finishes many of my thoughts and has committed them to paper. Not to say she is not original – as she is.
The poems are acoustic. I read them, and aloud. I thought Donne, because of the metaphysical qualities of the poems, and was captured by the magical realism and more so by the Feminist content.
Perhaps the key to the poems ‘acoustic/soundlike’ quality is found on p.9 ‘A Letter to My Optician’. He looks on the bright side and in so doing enables her to too.
The early poems are those of a woman seemingly sat on the edge of a precipice and what preserves her is her honesty. I tasted Judy’s indignation, felt the grief and loss.
On reading I felt talking to and being with her (ex-) partner was a real effort. And I think this anthology logs it well. The pain is tangible. The conflicting expectations and desires are clear.
‘The Blackmailer’s Wife Reads History and Considers the Nature of Guilt’ gives the reader more information about the relationship with her husband. “You think too much, he says, still wanting me to read his palm. We both know I could do it”
Yet does he allow her the power?
Subsequent poems such as “There is No X on this Map in Any of Its Usual Guises” make you think not. The poem is vitriolic, bitter and seeking vengeance.
The anthology chronicles Judy’s divorce and reading further you follow her through the ‘Blame Game’ via a cup of tea – “Best Drink of the Day”.
At “Loudness” one obtains an insight to this process of ‘escape’ from the hostile regime. “The Confessions” speak of the relief and the realisation of the freedom she has achieved.
Whichever poem speaks to you, read it and aloud.
My personal favourite: ‘ A Woman Assumes Invisibilty aboard HMS Belfast’ . “Nobody clocks her as she goes ashore”.
Judy’s eye is surely trained on Watford Gap and far beyond and I hope that she has found resolution.
‘Loudness’ by Judy Brown is published by Seren (Poetry Wales Press) £8.99