Heather Trickey was a social research scientist, charity worker, Quaker and poet. In 2020, during the first Covid lockdown, she received a diagnosis of cancer. She died in July 2021, aged 50. In 2020 she published a remarkable book of poems, Sorry About the Mess, with Happenstance Press. I urge you to read it.
Her poems bring to mind the everyday language, directness of tone, and craft shaped by wit rather than irony of great poets like Ann Gray, Myra Schneider, Rose Cook, Ann Sansom, Naomi Jaffa, and Julia Darling.
Next week I will have the privilege of taking her amazing poem ‘Metamorphosis’, told from the perspective of a patient receiving a life-changing diagnosis, into a classroom of medical professionals. I can hardly wait to see what they make of it.
Her poem ‘Pobble‘ displays many of the vitrues found in poem after poem in Sorry About the Mess. Reading it there is the unmistakable sensation that each word springs from direct experience. The use of precise verbs (‘leaked’, ‘swung’, ‘dabbling’) and declarative sentences (‘After I leaked hot tears…’; ‘This is the Channel’; ‘And I am the Pobble’; ‘A friend once sang’; ‘This poem is not…’) both mediate and shape the grim experience of getting up from a radiotheraphy treatment table and lift it into something that is beyond mere anecdote.
I also like the way the poem undercuts its own seriousness with sudden shifts of tone, the effect of which is to remind the reader again of the artist’s duty to control and transform her material, not only report on it:
A friend once sat hereabouts and sang a song to the Severn. Brown/blue, two things can be true. Right now it looks like sparkling shit. This poem is not about Pobbles and it will not win prizes.
The first time I read the final sentence, it literally took my breath away. It comes across as a casual shrugging of the shoulders in the direction all that has already been said and appears to shine a spotlight onto the poem’s limitations, and by extension the enterprise of the whole book. I don’t believe Heather Trickey felt that, deep down. I think she knew her poems were the real thing. Which they are, consistently and triumphantly. They make me very grateful. They make me glad to be alive.