“Feverfew” weaves mythical personae into contemporary poems that voice disquiet about climate change, the environment, nature and personal confession. They don’t shy away from politics either. The first poem, “What I Learnt from the Owl” concludes,
“What I learnt from the owl
how to voice my darkness
in hisses, in shrieks
how to drop from the heights,
heart‐shaped face falling to earth
as if love itself were plummeting.”
Healing comes from confronting and dealing with the darker side of one’s nature, working through it to get to the day beyond. Seeking out prey is a useful metaphor for getting to the heart of issues that would rather stay buried and hidden. After the swoop to earth, the owl regains flight and moves upwards.
There are a group of poems that use mythical creatures as political metaphors. In “The Benefit Minister’s Mythological Creature of Choice”,
“She chooses a Harpy.
They are the Souls of the wind she says, an urge and energy
plucking the seas, forcing the grasses back in her direction.
She has forgotten they are beaked kleptomaniacs
carrying a stink of carrion.
Who we really are is occult and buried,
our egos are alchemists bedded down in the dark,
magicians – groping round to turn soiled sheets into doves.
She is half right about the word – she has harnessed the wind.
She rides the thermals
like a princess carried on a sedan chair.”
Appropriate for a minister who is out of touch with the consequences of her decisions and uses the labour of others for personal gain. The youth of the word “princess” suggests someone capable of walking but insisting on her entitlement to be carried on the shoulders of others, evidently forgetting she is a public servant. The theme of those who take and demand rather than request and nuture is picked up in “I came back as a Horse”, set in racing stables,
“A young one never came back. If your legs buckle,
if your back is too weak, thereʹs a bullet for you.
I love my mane, even when he winds it round his hand
to make a boxing glove.
All night in the stalls we whinny, and clatter.
I prefer to be out in the long grass, where crows
land lightly on my back and their fluttering feathers
blow the breeze onto me.
Once, a child passed me, said I had kind eyes,
felt pity for me.”
This owner demands his horses perform even when mistreated. He forces them to wear their harnesses even when stabled as a constant reminder of their servitude and who is in charge. Even so, the horses remember freedom and how to show compassion.
“Almost Raptors” contrasts a heron that “looked more dragon than bird” with pampered garden birds, blackbirds, goldfinches, who feed from food left out by humans whereas the herons,
“These other creatures are taught by their wild fathers
that getting is brutal.
Last night, in a poor part of the city,
the words the poets uttered seem punched out
by the mic’s clenched fist.
Pages flapping white,
words spearing our attention.
Back home, I read feather‐light, fluttering poetry.”
One can be dainty, elegantly-wrought and light when you’re not worrying about paying rent or getting food on the table. Urgency and need make people/birds seem demanding, but the real issue is the contrast between those who can write from a place of comfort and those who write from a place of need. A later poem, “Please step Aside So I can Write About the Living” starts with an instruction, “You need to get the dead out of your poems” but the person speaking has passed on leaving the poet to remember,
“we stood together in the gallery and I saw you reflected
in the fictive space of a painting
your form, gleaming white, translucent
as thin frost, or a sleek gauze
floating on the black glass as if airborne
a premature, amorphous haunting
your ghost getting here ahead of you.”
It is a delicate poem but one that reflects on a dark subject and implies that memories can induce healing as well as darkness.
In “Feverfew”Anna Saunders has created a collection of nuanced poems that are lyrical in tone but don’t keep to ‘pretty’ subjects. She does explore the darkness but through a lens of healing, as if the poems’ purpose is to lessen the fevered reactions to trauma and negativity. They encourage the reader to look again at the familiar and see the positives while acknowledging the negatives.
Emma Lee’s The Significance of a Dress is available from Arachne Press. The link also has a trailer featuring the title poems and samples of some of the poems from the collection. It is also available as an eBook.