When Peter Sellars Came to Tea: Trisha Broomfield, Dempsey & Windle

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Trisha Broomfield’s short collection is drenched in memories in which characters from her childhood and adulthood vividly portray her life experiences in a humorous yet compelling way. She engages the reader in a journey that chronologically traces family events and occasional encounters, highlighting their contingency but also their importance in shaping her personality and in making her aware of the world around her:


     It never saw the light of day,

     or a sud of Squeezy,

     its base was sacrosanct

     wiped only with paper, to smooth a brittle crumb.

     On a good day, a cornflake, sunshiny day,

     it welcomed skinless sausages,

     tomatoes, mushrooms and bright-yolked eggs,

     their lace-brown edges curling with bubbles, spitting with spite.

     Triangles of Mother’s Pride, white.

                                          (‘Nan’s Cast Iron Frying Pan’)


Relationships are crucial; their closeness and aloofness and their start and end cast light and shadow in the poems, revealing deep, layered meanings. Broomfield’s poetry is therefore only apparently light-hearted and charming; it actually revisits difficult moments by trying to make sense of the failures in clever, provoking lines. Love relationships are disappointing, loneliness stings, dreams do not come true. A general sense of loss pervades some of the poems, unfolding a bittersweet reality where human beings with disenchanted eyes wander around, as in ‘The Kiss’:


     Last night, lying in the eye of the storm,

     I dreamt our perfect kiss,

     our first.

     It was Gustav Klimt,

     tender and passionate.


     But owing to the hour

     the white heat of the storm,

     my restlessness,

     I awoke to

     René Magritte.


Boozing, a night out and partying are great fun but can often end in disillusionment; nevertheless, this does not affect the wish to experience life in full. Events are revisited through language, which is a cathartic strategy but also shows Broomfield’s skilfulness in shaping lines and evoking fascinating images through sound and vocabulary. Words “create beauty where I saw none” forming a meaning that makes sense of life; they are “woven with love” and construct connections in the dissemination of memories. What remains can be ordinary but is nevertheless interesting in its uniqueness, which is reflected in the originality of a poem such as ‘Creping’:


     Sitting on boards of fading teak,

     the sun insistent that I notice

     its work.

     I look down at my naked arms,



     with brown crumbs


This is a thought-provoking and entertaining collection that questions the human capacity to cope with the different opportunities that life offers and subsequently to let go of them. It gives a disenchanted and sometimes hilarious view of what it means to be human. The past comes back in “an assortment of hours” that are lost and regained in a never-ending recollection.


Trisha Broomfield, When Peter Sellars Came to Tea, Dempsey & Windle, £8




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