Will Vigar, Lunar Tattoos, Dense Weed Publications, 2018. ISBN: 978-1980251293, £4.99.
Often when reading poetry, both with collections and pamphlets I adore and those that I am not so keen on, the title feels more like an afterthought than something that ties the work together. In these cases, either a title is so vague and broad it could be scrawled on the front of anything, or it’s a phrase plucked at random from one of the poems that just doesn’t fit right as a description for the work as a whole. In Lunar Tattoos, Will Vigar has no such problem. Indeed, the title fits visually and thematically and the notion of the lunar cycle, if not the satellite itself, permeates his pamphlet.
Beginning with incidents from childhood and returning, in the end, as an adult, to ponder upon those incidents, Lunar Tattoo’s journey of aging and memory rotates back on itself, each separated by a pictogram of a phase of the moon. Vigar intimately understands how to structure his work as a whole, even if at times I find some of the individual pieces a little uninspiring. `Davy’s of Dover’, for example, I found of little interest with it’s sing-song tone, rhyming couplets and exclamation mark. I understand many people adore these traits in poems and, indeed, it does reflect the innocence and lack of complexity of the youth it takes place in, but I must admit this has been done before and is a little boring.
Ultimately though, poems like this are momentary lapses in the collection. From the same first section of the pamphlet, comes the stunningly compact `Lullaby’, reimagined in adulthood as the shipping forecast rocking the listener to sleep: `as a warm and soothing treacle prayer/sounded; a languid, liquid lullaby/”Plymouth, Biscay, Finisterre…”’ This reapplication of the techniques that fall flat in `Davy’s of Dover’ work sublimely here, refreshed and intriguing.
Lunar Tattoos isn’t simply a wholesome reflection upon an idyllic youth, however. At the pamphlet’s end, the poem `Kevin’ lurches out at the reader as a reminder of the bad old days and just how awful things could be. As someone relatively recently graduated from childhood, the notion of puzzling moments and ideas suddenly being realised as a hushed secret kept by your elders is something I am all too familiar with. I too have spent years `piece[ing] together/the barbs and puffing chests’, and `felt the truth [come] into sharp focus’. In placing this, arguably the darkest poem of the pamphlet, beside `The Goodfellow’ as its final piece, drawing to a close on the `unSeelie’, Vigar recognises both with impish delight and a darker, more fearsome suggestion, exactly what he has done. He has shone a light on all those dark corners of childhood and exactly what lurked in them with great dexterity.
In short, Lunar Tattoos is a pamphlet that stays with you and wills you to mull over the events of your own childhood, returning with fresh, adult eyes to a former phase. This is exactly what any collection or pamphlet should strive for – to be greater than the sum of its part and to understand that individual pieces are only fragments of the whole. Thoroughly worth reading.
You can buy Lunar Tattoos here.
Amy Kinsman is a genderfluid poet and playwright from Manchester, England. As well as managing Riggwelter, Amy is associate editor with Three Drops From A Cauldron and runs Gorilla Poetry open mic in Sheffield. They have also been a student editor of Route 57. Their work has previously appeared in many print anthologies and web journals. Their debut pamphlet & is forthcoming from Indigo Dreams at the end of March 2018. Available here.