‘Amanda in the mirror’ is one of a series of portraiture poems, some of which are portraits of a photographer who is embarrassed by her own turn to portraiture, having always preferred to emphasise composition over content. I was interested in what happened with the exchange of the lyric first person for a third person perspective—not always very much. ‘Amanda in the mirror’ is a portrait capturing the introspection of someone looking outwards at their own face.  It is about what isn’t mirrored in a mirror, the words within the head, a look of enmity at a self you maybe aren’t even thinking about, the context of the days you live in around that moment at the mirror, the rehearsal for the next day, and, by the end of the poem, the inward smile that isn’t reflected in the look of anxiety Amanda appears to have in the mirror. I like her dispassionate awareness of this—at least, I take the third person account of these disjunctions to mirror Amanda’s own awareness.  

I very much like the management of time in this short poem, with the first moment infront of the mirror occurring several weeks before she receives the letter about the scholarship she has been awarded for the exam she sat the day after that opening moment. I like the clauses. There is a relish for the grammar of the poem, that reflects Amanda’s interest in translation. But although she is evidently invested in the outcome of the exam, and genuinely absorbed in the pleasures of translation, she is more concerned with conveying her dream accurately in a language she can only hesitantly use, even if this risks her losing marks. This is what I like about her best, this readiness, even while playing by the rules, to make up her own, more interesting and more challenging rules to a game within the game no one else will even know she is playing. The poem is not autobiographical, but I recognise Amanda’s approach to examinations. In fact, her fidelity both to her own game-rules and to her own interiority could almost make you think she might grow up to be a poet—but I suspect she probably has too much competence in other areas and is too pragmatic not to take up a more worldly and more useful career, leaving her little time for this kind of pointless play.

anna jackson