On Kathy Pimlott

I’ve written before on this blog about the excellence of Kathy Pimlott’s poetry – a review, here, of her first Emma Press pamphlet Goose Fair Night (2016). Kathy’s second pamphlet, Elastic Glue (2019), was just as good, and contained several poems concerning the gentrification of her neighbourhood of Covent Garden and Seven Dials in central London.

I was therefore delighted to be able to attend the launch, on Wednesday at the lovely setting of Phoenix Garden, of Kathy’s first full collection, The Small Manoeuvres, published by Verve Poetry Press and available to buy here. It was a very enjoyable evening, which included Kathy reading some of the fine poems in the book.

Like the two pamphlets, the poems in The Small Manoeuvres are full of Kathy’s clear-eyed perceptions, a palpable sense of social justice, deep respect for family, friendship (especially amongst women), history and memory, and finely-drawn character studies. They are, in the best way, very readable poems, without any irritating tricksy-bollock nonsense. For these reasons, Kathy is among my very favourite contemporary poets.

The first of the five stanzas which make up the poem ‘Weathers in the City’ exemplifies Kathy’s bravura, but also concise, tell-it-as-it-is style:

Our lead-laced down draughts gust
between high-rises, blow sex cards
from phone kiosks, shake plane trees
to sneezes. Not true winds as such.


The poem’s concept is an original one. It carries on to end as wonderfully as it began:

                                                 Without
oceans, rippling cornfields, crags,
we must find the sublime where we can.
Once, from the Lyric Hammersmith bar,

disappointed with the play, I looked out
and saw a triple rainbow, so clear it made

anything possible. And sometimes grubby air
rests on our cheeks as if we are loveable.


Aside from the incidental resonance for me of the mention of the Lyric bar, where I spent many lunchtimes with my friend James when we both worked for Hammersmith and Fulham Council in the late Nineties, this passage begs the questions of who ‘we’ might be and, intriguingly, why that ‘we’ might not usually be ‘loveable’. Is ‘we’ the city-residents, or does it also include all those who are just passing through as tourists or even as day-trippers? The idea of community is a key theme, sometimes more latent than explicit, in Kathy’s poetry.

‘Weathers in the City’ is one of several superb poems set in Kathy’s locale which form a core sequence at the centre of the collection, touching on Theatreland, West End pubs and all, but the book also encompasses jam-making, sloe gin and much else besides.

Here’s a picture of the poet herself at the launch.

Kathy Pimlott

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