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Denise Saul The Room Between Us

Denise Saul’s The Room Between Us

Ellen Harrold

The Room Between Us
Denise Saul
Liverpool University Press, April 2022


enise Saul’s debut collection, The Room Between Us, is a melancholic reflection on transience as she provides care for her terminally ill mother. Saul’s work ruminates on the importance of human connection and how small day-to-day moments inform our understanding of legacy and mortality. The poetry coexists across physicality and ephemerality as the reader sees the end of a person's life drawn across grand narratives and ordinary moments. These contradictions merge together, creating unique and vibrant narratives seen in poems such as ‘Golden Grove’;

Unbearable as night from which spring comes,
you are everywhere at once: in the wind
on sunken earth in stilling water.
I carry your heavy urn to Golden Grove
where tamarind trees emerge as woods

Saul presents the collection without chapters or divisions, allowing the work to exist as both short-form individual works and long-form structures as each poem flows into the next. The brevity of the collection plays well with this, as one can appreciate the composition and how it integrates itself with the presentation of each individual poem. It makes the book well-suited to reading in sequence, both with the use of language to form a symphony in text and the ever-evolving themes and tones that reflect the complex process of grief and acceptance as you begin to lose someone so integral to your sense of self. This brief passage from the poem ‘No Word For Blue’ is an effective example. Using a simple prose style and visually cutting the sentences midway to convey the cyclical narrative.

My mother’s ring has no beginning and no end. I donated it
to a charity shop. A month later a friend returned the ring in
a recycled box.

The intricate style of the poems perfectly complements the long-form approach used across the breadth of The Room Between Us. The variety of narrative styles and poetic techniques used in each poem keeps each poem separate while remaining a cohesive and interconnected collection. The placement of the single-line poem ‘On Sitting’, across from a paragraph-long prose piece, punctuates the space between the poems as well as still being stylistically similar enough to maintain that aural and visual connection that leads the eye from page to page.

Even the wheelchair carried her presence in its arms and back.

One of the most prominant aspects of this collection is the pervasive state of melancholy that Saul has imbued into the collection. Beyond death, one feels the pain of absence. The weight of memory on one's relationship with the present and the knowledge that the pain of these memories will eventually grow stronger. In poems such as ‘First Conversation,’ you see those moments of recognition and connection as the joy that carries these pieces of the past to the present, uniting these two people through the life they shared:

The left eye is confined to a single colour. You forget everything that
Borders on white.

What you leave out is everything. You look away and close your eyes.

This happened and then this.

The Room Between Us is a subtle reflection of human connection. It is a collection that offers the reader more with each re-read as each poem shows incredible application of lyricism and layers of thematic complexity. The discussion of death and mother-daughter relationships is a captivating exploration of a topic that is all too easily ignored.

ellen harold contributor pic

Ellen Harrold