IT is not unheard of for people to have a pet name for their cars, and even to credit them with their own personality.
Ilkley author Mandy Sutter’s beloved Honda Civic is known simply as Old Blue Car, and she has taken her devotion a step further by writing an ode to her vehicle, Old Honda, which appears in her enjoyable new poetry collection.
“Tired of Tesco’s car park and the 20-minute Keighley run, wearied by all the rights and lefts, the endless pantomime of the traffic lights”...”Better, perhaps, to just take off on the Addingham bypass and head for the open skies,” she writes in Old Honda. Called Old Blue Car, this is a beautifully written collection of poems, covering everything from lost love to chickpea casserole. Mandy delves into the minutiae of everyday life and draws on fond memories to create verse that is both funny and touching.
Ghost Notes pays tribute to her father’s music-making: “In his day, Dad played a mean guitar, cramming each bar with shuffle-notes”...”Now his car horn speaks, his pocket swings with a strolling beat to the chopped chords of pound coins”, and In the Next Bed – observations of a hospital ward, written during her time as Writer in Residence at Leeds General Infirmary – she writes: “In the next bed, she’s had her stitches vertical, like a zip. In the next bed, I heard his dying words; ‘I’m not going home again, am I?’”
In 19 Mortimer Place, Mandy remembers an old friend’s family home. “My childhood friend, who’ll lose a daughter to leukaemia, sleeps in a pink room, damp hair plaited in rags. Her younger brother who’ll marry his first girlfriend and take a year out of work to write a novel sleeps under a blue ceiling hung with model aeroplanes.”
And Roger is a bittersweet ode to her tennis hero, and a lament of a relationship that has lost its spark: “Roger Federer came to my bed last night and said he was in love with me”...”Roger was willing to take me away from our terraced house with the problem chimney and the low mains pressure and all your failings and maybe some of my own.”
She ends with eight short poems touching on various aspects of the human condition in just a few words. “With many rows of sharp teeth, its dim-eyed bulk now gone, but circling,” she writes of grief.
In another she writes: “At least he said, you’ll get a poem out of this. Yeah, I thought: a short one.”
Old Blue Car is Mandy’s third poetry collection. She also had a novel, Stretching It, published in 2013. A freelance journalist, ghost writer, and Mandy has been on Ilkley Literature Festival’s board for more than a decade.
She will be reading from Old Blue Car at Bradford City Library on Saturday, May 16 at 2pm, along with Chester poet Gill McEvoy, who has a new collection, The First Telling, from Happenstance Press.
As for the Honda Civic, it’s no longer with us. Mandy reveals that her beloved old car has gone to “that great scrapyard in the sky”.
“It was mine for 13 years, and it didn’t break down once in all that time,” she adds, wistfully. “I thought the least I could do was write it a poem.”
l Old Blue Car is available on Amazon and at The Grove bookshop in Ilkley.