Lavinia Greenlaw’s last collection, The Casual Perfect (2011), focused on ‘the achievement of the provisional’. The Built Moment explores what we build out of the provisional: beginnings and endings, arrivals and departures, and the moments we fix as memories, fixing too their joy and pain. The first section, ‘The Sea is an Edge and an Ending’, is a sequence of poems about her father’s dementia and his disappearance into the present tense.
It is not a narrative of illness so much as a meditation on the metaphysics of memory and loss. What does it mean to exist only in the present, for your sense of self to come loose and for the past to float free? The second section, ‘The Bluebell Horizontal’, looks towards possibility, and proposes new frameworks in the face of loss. It includes a prayer, a blessing and a speculation on why we cling on to pain.
There are structures that arrest remembering and forgetting, and the fundamental arrest of a poet’s difficulty with words. The Built Moment masterfully demonstrates how, as we get older and death becomes more a part of life, what we build and what we break out of become more important than ever.