Unravel those French seams,

see if there’s a selvage edge:

             zig-zag of tiny holes where the loom gripped the cloth,

             the close-pressed, ruckled warp

Ignore the little cuts of buttonholes, but caress

                                       the buttons,

                                       remove them,

                                       put them in a tin


Ease out each dart, each knife- edge pleat

Unsettle sleeves, unpick pockets,

                                          let them open

                                          into nothingness

Piece by piece,

                              Unhook, smooth, then gently fold



I like the layout of the poem – it makes an impact on the page, the spacing, indents,
line breaks and white space give the words and small sentences individual attention.
The moment is familiar to me – sewing – unpicking.  I like the way you can get right into
the scene and feel the emotion of what’s going on (or not). I can picture the French seam
and all the little close-up shots – selvedge edge, zig-zag of holes, ruckled warp etc. The
odd thing is Anna has taken out the colour and texture of the cloth – leaving us to fill this
in for ourselves. It’s a bold move and I figured it was because the colour and texture would
get in the way of what the poem is trying to say (more later).

The technique of introducing sounds haunts the piece, the ‘rr’ in the first stanza, the ‘ck’
in the first and fourth stanza, the ‘tt’ in the second (as if someone is tutt-tutting), then
the contrasting ‘o’ and soft ‘p’ throughout. Rather like the word choice – the harsh, ‘edge,
ruckled, cuts, knife edge, unpick‘ contrasting with ‘caress, open, smooth, fold’.

And finally, I began to think this piece could be a metaphor for a broken relationship,
(selvage-salvage), putting memories in a tin (putting the best parts away) cutting out all
the bad things and unpicking them, finally piece by piece smoothing them and folding them
away ...

The layout and careful choice of words for sound and meaning have made me think about how
I tend to write little stories in one traditional form or another and this poem has taken
me back to the moment – to the roots of words and their sound and meaning.  It dares to break
away from the more traditional forms without being obvious. And it’s something I’m going to
try in the future – I attempted the style in a new poem, but it turned out nothing like this
(aware that poems always seem to find a fit of their own!) but the poem gave me the impetus
to experiment.

Anna’s reply:

Thanks so much for sending the lovely reading of the poem! I absolutely agree with the
emotional issues you’ve picked up on (I hadn’t directly associated selvage / salvage —
but of course that’s there; the theme of recycling, saving the best bits, etc.  The poem
actually came from a dream I had about a kind of doll / mummy made of folded cloth — but
all that really got into the poem from the dream (apart from the emotions!) was ‘fold’ . . .

For me, ‘gently’ is a way of pushing against the inherent violence of what’s being done —
very much part of the play between harsh sounds and smooth ones that you identify.
(I could be wrong, but I think female readers are more likely to see this pattern than male
ones . . .) Oddly (??) it never occurred to me to include colour or texture in the poem;
though in the dream, the fabric was like bandages / a winding sheet: white and in a plain,
maybe fairly open weave.

‘Unravel’  appears in _Three Reds_ by Anna Reckin (2011) Shearsman Books Ltd,
ISBN: 978-1-84861-183-2

Also by Anna Reckin:  
_Spill_ (2004), a pamphlet from Chibcha Press, Buffalo, USA
_Broder_ (2000), an artist's book from Traffic Street Press, Minneapolis, USA