REVIEW: THE TALE OF TURKISH CARPET – JACQUELINE SAPHRA (BAD BETTY PRESS)

Review by Jessica Mookherjee

This is a revenge story in a poem and one that we don’t know where will lead but is certainly an entertaining and possibly sinister take on the ‘scorned wife’ motif. It is a long poem in a limited edition pamphlet series Bad Betty Shots. If you like the body of Jacqueline Saphra’s distinguished work, her exuberance, charm and mastery of rhythmic pleasing forms then you will want this for your Saphra collection. It’s a tale. The exotic location of the souk, a tourist trap in Turkey, or perhaps a suburb of London where there are plenty of Turkish cafes and shops, either way belies the kitchen sink drama of a poem. The language of hesitancy – “Maybe because…” and the repetition of that “Maybe” sets up the suspense. The splattering of carpets, of exotic teas, and rather strange looks from men gives way to a woman noticing how trapped she is. The Englishness of the poem is what strikes me first, the mock apologetic ‘maybe’ the, ‘perhaps’ gives me the sense of a woman not fully understanding the nature of her own frustration, rage and constraint. Or “possibly”  it’s just a game that gets out of hand as scene in the line;

“for extra effect and you playing along”. 

The pleasing rhythms and rhymes in the poem give the poem a gentle, meandering control which never fully lets go, as we want the protagonist in the poem to. 

Clearly the protagonist is a person whose partner holds their hand a little too tightly, who makes all the decisions, who are stuck together on what should be a great holiday. The poem is a great tale of how we ‘interpret’ other people’s lives when we go to other’s cultures and yet might forget the constraints on our own, thinking them normal. Until – it all gets too much.

This is a poem which is both fun to read and once read you continue to think about – which is the mark of a good poem I would say. We are all also left to wonder what on earth happens after, perhaps we could ask the poet for a follow up tale to this, the tale of the severed head of a husband found in a Heathrow suitcase –perhaps? Or perhaps the tale of a latter day Shirley Valentine or even a woman who goes back to her nice life after having one too many in that Turkish carpet shop? Add this Bad Betty Shot to your Saphra collection.

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