Aly Stoneman is concerned with landscapes both in the actual countryside and the landscape of a poem on the page. “Mermaids” starts,
“I walked a blank white page
between scarred headland
and storm-line heaped with weed
and litter, stinking of the sea.”
A stanza which manages to move from intrigue, “blank white page/…scarred headland” to the more banal “heaped with weed/and litter, stinking of the sea”. The seaweed and stench were doubtless there but their presence is predictable and the stanza doesn’t offer a new way of sensing them or use them beyond observing them.
In “Wyld” there’s a countryside walk where the “we” of the poem are not identified and their relationship is not spelt out either so readers don’t know if they are friends or lovers. Perhaps the poet’s intention is that it doesn’t matter.
“We paddle and wash near Bigsweir Bridge;
canoeists greet us, swans observe us.
At Lower Hail after dark, outstretched
on a platform of flat stones, we seem to sail.
Bright stars are not police helicopters,
nor owl-calls the screeching brakes
of stolen cars. Satellites flare and dim.
Conifer trees are sharp black cut-outs
against constellations we cannot name.”
The poem ends with the walkers catching a bus and going their separate ways, “waving until you vanish in the heavy rain.” The walkers are urbanites enjoying the country and the contrasts between natural sounds and artificial city sounds. Look how passive it is, “canoeists greet us, swans observe us,” “we seem to sail,” the list of observations. It feels as if the reader is being kept at one remove, distanced from the action by the passive voice of the writing. This is a shame as the writing shows awareness of craft but appears to be searching for a subject it feels passionately enough about to ditch the passive voice in favour of an active one.
By Emma Lee
Other Crystal Clear Creators publications: