Poetry of hammocks, wine, and gynaecologists

Book review: Gynaecologist in the Jacuzzi

Marie Cadden.

Marie Cadden.

A STRIKING feature of Marie Cadden’s debut poetry collection - Gynaecologist in the Jacuzzi – is that the voice speaking to us in the more than 50 poems included is, for a first collection, a peculiarly unified one.

There is no sense of an apprentice poet trying on hats, and not yet having quite found the one she’ll end up wearing. Cadden arrives as a poet fully formed, and making no apologies at all.

This collection, finely presented by Salmon Poetry and with an exquisite cover image by Cadden's daughter Ruth – opens with ‘Mammogram’, a wince inducing, light satirical, masterpiece: “If men/were to lay their testicles/one at a time/on a metal plate…//if men had breasts/they’d have found a better way.” If you have any interest in either breasts or testicles – and, let’s face it, we have each of us been possessed by one or the other – buy this book and read ‘Mammogram’ in full.

Every time I’ve seen Marie Cadden recite it at a reading, all the women in the room laugh and the men – including apparently me – begin rather indiscreetly crossing their legs.

It gets worse for all those closet misogynists who think there are certain things one just doesn’t mention, even in impolite company, and that women poets should write about buttercups and kittens and Celtic crosses and the like.

In ‘Makeover’ the woman who “looks fifty-fifty?/She IS fifty-five!” is shown the error of her ways by the somewhat psychopathic narrator: “Doesn’t know what WE know – /that today’s Granny stays juicy til eighty!//o we’ll oil her fanny, peel her years/cut and bin them…"

‘Wax’ takes the reader into altogether darker territory: “Come in for a Brazilian. We’ll reveal/the little girl beneath your bush...Four weeks to regrowth, four weeks/with naked pre-pubescent lips/to tease the paedophile in your guy, eh?” There are also two witty poems about incontinence, including ‘Long Trousers’, about the man “behind the shiny big-man desk,/that brassy name plaque” who lives in terminal fear of being found out: “that even yet/he might be caught out/with a poo in his pants.”

Yet Gynaecologist in the Jacuzzi is not what the League of Decency would have called “filth”. Cadden also writes succinctly about cows, strawberries, white wine, and (especially ) things one can do in a hammock during a meteor shower.

Of course the League of Decency would consider some of those poems filth with the air of gentle decadence which pervades Cadden’s work. Particularly startling is ‘Intimates’, in which she writes of the sisters who used to pop each other’s spots but now “draw blood with words,/needle to provoke a response of any old kind,/scratch for a gush of passion, anger, anything,/but the dribbling watery seepage of indifference.”


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