“Owl Unbound” Zoe Brooks (Indigo Dreams Publishing) – Book Review

Zoe Brooks Owl Unbound book cover

Zoe Brooks’ poems in “Owl Unbound” look at how humanity often shows its best side when allowed to connect with the natural world and can be at its worst when disconnected or stuck in a concreted environment designed for productivity rather than people. That does not mean the poems are gentle. In “Naunton Farm” the narrator is an executor dealing with paperwork and discovers her mother’s note about her husband’s death,

“My hand reaches down
to the little cat
with no ears,
which rubs against my ankle crying.
You had hands big enough
to hold that cat
in your palm,
carrying her
away from the burning barn.”

There’s a tenderness in the image of hands being there to nurture and comfort and a sense of connection between the daughter and her late father. The reaction of the narrator to the cat, instinctively reaching to fuss it, suggests the fire was not linked to the father’s death. Instead it seems to be an inheritance, a responsibility passed on yet still treasured. A theme of heritage is picked up in “The Seedsavers”, a group of women who work to separate seeds from pods and sort them into which are worth keeping and which should be discarded. The women talk as they work.

“At last she rises
and walks into the garden
sniffing the wind.
Her shed‐husband offered
to make a machine once,
but she prefers the ancient way –
the lift of seed, the fall,
the scatter of chaff across the roses.
She turns and returns to the others.”

The machine would put through a higher volume of work, assuming there was enough to keep it fed. However, the sense of community, of working together for a common purpose would be lost. The stories and news shared over the work might be lost too. The “shed-husband” is shut off from the women and also the wisdom that comes from being literally in touch with the cycles of crops, how well the roses are doing, how healthy next year’s crop might be and what weather the wind will bring. There’s a sense the women are working with nature while the machines attempt to tame it.

The urban poems feel desolate, in “From Streetlamp to Gutter”, is set near a railway with commuters getting on the newly arrived train,

“The boys have dragged their cardboard boxes
under the railway arches and sleep.

We do not hear or see them.

We have homes and trains to go to.
We have rain‐soaked coat seams
and hair like wet satin.
We are not warm,
yet warm enough to make us
not stand a moment longer,
not stand and wait at all.”

The commuters have become accustomed to ignoring the homeless in their rush to get home, not pausing to think about whether people who merely have cardboard to shelter in will manage to cope with the cold and damp. When there’s no easy solution it’s simpler to ignore the problems. The poem is about more than just the idea of pausing to notice the homeless. It’s not having the freedom to step back and ask if we are doing the right thing, if we are living the life we should be living, if changes could be made that would improve our lives as well as those of others. By not taking that time and hurrying for the train, the commuters seem to be as trapped as the homeless.

In the title poem, an escaped owl leaves “an empty perching post” and the narrator,

“At my father’s instruction
I held out my hands
as if ready to receive bread and wine,
but into my bowl of fingers
he dropped a pellet,
a galaxy of small bones and feathers
cocooned in fur.

That night I woke.
The moon shredded by clouds
hung over the stable roof
and an owl called unbound
from the cypress tree.”

The majestic owl, something to be watched from a distance while its handler was the only one to go near it, has gone. The daughter thinks she’s about to receive a memento to keep and treasure but instead gets the remains of the owl’s last meal. Something that can’t be kept. If it’s a reminder of anything, it’s that the owl is real and nature can be ugly as well as beautiful. Later, woken by an owl’s call, she can’t be sure it’s the same owl, but nonetheless it’s telling her nature should be free. These are not birds designed for confinement.

In “Without a Stair” adult daughters become a bridge between grandchildren and grandmother who is like a ghostly presence “flickering on a landing without a stair”.

“She made our home an ark,
built it strong with seasoned wood.
She is still there
in her house on a crumbling cliff.
Some time soon it will float out to sea.”

It could be a life coming to an end or a reminder that memories fade or a bit of both.

“Owl Unbound” is a series of gentle poems through which Zoe Brooks explores human relationships with nature and how respect for the natural world brings out a sense of community and purpose which can be lost in urban landscapes.

“Owl Unbound” is available from Indigo Dreams Publishing.

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.

Emma Lee The Significance of a Dress cover image
The Significance of a Dress book cover

“Russian Doll” Teika Marija Smits (Indigo Dreams Publishing) – book review

Russian Doll Teika Marija Smits book cover

“Russian Doll” explores motherhood from a viewpoint of a daughter who reaches adulthood and becomes a mother, looking at both challenges and delights in the littlest doll gaining layers of experience as she’s seen to transform into an adult outer-doll who still contains the dreams and memories of the smallest. It’s split into two parts “Daughter-doll/Doll-daughter” and “Mother-doll/Doll-mother”. From the first, in “Shades of Red” the daughter’s Russian mother is late for a school play, “Striking in fuchsia” leaving the daughter a shade of crimson,

“and turn into the smallest
version of myself –
the littlest Russian doll,
the only most easily lost;
almost, but not quite,

The littlest doll is also the one that doesn’t come apart, the one who stands complete. A inner strength that comes through in the poems that touch on the poet’s father’s death when she was aged 15. In “Matryoshka”, after the funeral, some dolls are taken apart some are “some shut tight, permanently locked in grief,” which leaves,

“The littlest doll found herself rattling around
in the wrong size body,
suddenly bulky with responsibilities
and listening to echoes.
To all eyes an adult, within, a child.”

The implication is that in the transition from child to adult, we don’t shed layers, we gain them. The intact baby doll is wrapped in experience and expectation. The external appearance is of an adult but the speaker still feels her inner child, hesitant and lacking confidence.

Part II, shifts to a mother’s viewpoint, starts with an effective triolet in “Making Heartroom”, the opening and closing couplet is,

“This mother’s womb grows day by day,
but so too does her heart.”

The theme here is picked up again in “Hooke’s Law” where a mother worries about sharing love between two children discovers when the second’s born that, “We mothers have hearts that do not obey/ the laws of physics;/ we have no elastic limits.”

In the title poem, the mother looks back to her younger self, assessing which dreams became reality, which didn’t as the external doll has thickened with layers of self,

“worn smooth by little hands
what dismantle me daily.
I answer with excuses and apologies.

Life intrudes, I explain;
takes us apart
and rebuilds us askew.”

A mother’s lot is to be worn by love and caring, her children might delay or completely derail her ambitions until they are independent and those unforgotten ambitions demand attention. But the ambitions a mother had before motherhood may no longer be relevant or may have to be adjusted to accommodate a new perspective or technology. Demands of family life may have depleted available resources.

“The Russian Doll” is an exploration of transition from daughter to motherhood, adding layers as the largest doll nests her smaller selves. At its heart, readers are reminded the smallest doll doesn’t break open. She provides the kernel that keeps love, dreams, desires intact and provides the thread of the matrilinear from outer adult to inner child.

“The Russian Doll” is available from Indigo Dreams Publishing.

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.

Emma Lee The Significance of a Dress cover image
Emma Lee The Significance of a Dress book cover

“To Start The Year From Its Quiet Centre” Victoria Bennett (Indigo Dreams Publishing) – book review

Victoria Bennett To Start The Year From Its Quiet Centre cover

Victoria Bennett takes readers on a journey through bereavement, specifically the loss of her mother in the final stages of mesothelioma and acceptance with small signs of hope in the aftermath. The opening poem, “The Suede Shoes” asks,

“Why bother planting that seed?
Why turn the beds
for a summer that will never come?
Why bother buying the pretty suede shoes?”

It also answers,

“We choose the shoes because
we can still find joy in a step.
We plant the seed because
we still love the way
it insists itself into life.

We turn the beds because
there will always be a summer,
even after you are gone.”

The description of “pretty” suggests the shoes are not being bought for their practical qualities, but are decorative and make the wearer feel good. They become a symbol for life continuing after a loved one’s death. Something to look forward to despite being caught in the limbo of not knowing how much longer the patient has. “Calendar” begins to mark that time through watching the sunrise in the morning,

“It’s another beautiful dawn, I say

but they get harder.
Another one, she says,
eyes turning away.

The last one
and it is just me.
The rain begins.”

The mother accepts that she hasn’t got much time left. The weather becomes a metaphor: sun for continued life, rain for the grief when that life has ended. This ending is revisited in “The Last Vigil”, the final part at just after midnight:

“After it all, three small breaths —

so quiet,
I almost missed you leaving.

You travel upwards,

turning cartwheels —

why did no‐one tell me
death felt like this —

an unbearable joy?

You leap from star
to star and then,

you are gone.”

The mother, the addresse of the poem, is not saying the reported question. The daughter left behind is projecting, hoping her mother is aware of her release from pain, the limbo of being near death but not quite there. There is nothing tethering the mother to her final pain-filled days now.

The journey continues into the aftermath. In “Planting”, “I dig bulbs into your bones” and later,

“The Almanac tells me
I am too late.

Even so, I wait, patient,
for the flowers to show.”

There’s a need for the speaker to feel as if she’s doing something, even if unproductive. Despite the loss, there’s still a sense of the mother’s spirit being present. In “Postcard Home” the speaker has a vision of her mother

“living by the sea at last, your paints out beside you,
brushes dipped in ink as the day closes.
I like to think of you this free, but still,
I miss you being here with me.”

The mother is rewarded with the house of her dreams, however, the daughter still misses her mother. The title poem ends the collection,

“into an hour
of not doing,

to stand, long enough
to hear the curlew call;
to remember our lives
opening to it all.”

“To Start the Year From Its Quiet Centre” is an unsentimental pamphlet of poems that explore a mother/daughter relationship as the mother’s life ends and the daughter’s continues. I would have appreciated a picture of who the mother was before she became ill: she’s painted as someone who was much-loved and who liked the natural world and the coast. But I don’t know what her favourite flower was or whether she preferred the rugged Northumbrian coast or sun-warmed Cornwall. The poems don’t stop with the mother’s death but continue into a life adjusting to her absence. Victoria Bennett has created a fine tribute.

To Start The Year From Its Quiet Centre is available from Indigo Dreams.

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.

The Significance of a Dress banner displayed at launch
The Significance of a Dress banner

“Feverfew” Anna Saunders (Indigo Dreams Publishing) – book review

Feverfew Anna Saunders

“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.

“Feverfew” is available from Indigo Dreams Publishing

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.

“The Bone that Sang” Claire Booker (Indigo Dreams Publishing) – book review

The Bone that Sang Claire Booker cover image

Throughout “The Bone that Sang” Claire Booker presents wry, compassionate observations on human life from a witness’s viewpoint. The tidiness of the poems often contrasts with the life being examined. Abdul Rahman Haroun was a refugee from Sudan, formerly a British colony, who risked running through the EuroTunnel to get from the Sangatt camp in France to England. In “Abdul Haroun Almost Medals at Dover” it re-imagines him as an Olympian who,

“dodges surveillance cameras as if they’re bullets –
that’s been a useful training – then it’s a steady race
along the track with the breath of family behind him.
Pace-setters hurtle past at 100 mph, sipping lattes
as they read the latest. At 28 miles he hits the wall.”

A breathless race through a refugee’s journey, the short vowels and double constants create a sense of urgency. Readers discover there’s “no podium” and don’t get to find out what happened to Haroun. However, there’s a rumour the “Brits love an underdog” and a hint that the Brits’ sentimental concern for animals might translate into concern for humans. Its light touch belies its subject matter: the dangerous journey, the risk to his life and sacrifices made to make it to England.

“At Risk Child” includes the succinct observation, “Now that her baby’s been taken away,/ she’s planning another.” A child considered to be ‘at risk’ means that social workers are involved, the child might still be with her original family or might be in the care system. Either way she’s unlikely to have been shown how to be a mother. Instead of helping her achieve that, her own child has been taken into care. Her reaction is to try to have another, which in turn is likely to be taken into care too. The system doesn’t allow her to learn how to be mother so it will continue to let her have children who are taken away. The bureaucracy and paperwork of the care system doesn’t allow workers time to teach her to be a mother, effectively punishing her for the lack of parental care she had as a child.

This lightness of touch continues throughout “All Hallows’ Eve” where spirits of loved ones are thought to revisit their previous homes. It starts with a series of supersititions, leave a dropped spoon, don’t boil cabbage, set out food and space to dance and ends,

“Your empty chairs will beguile them.
Let them lose themselves in the pleasing shine
of linen and tableware; the niceties
of salt. What does it matter if their glasses
never drain, they plates remain stubbornly heaped?
They have things to tell you.”

These visitors can only admire the food, but the welcome is to prevent mischief and hopefully they will leave pleasant messages instead of opening old feuds or guilt-tripping the living.

Most of the poems do not feel like personal poems, rather the poet taking on the role of witness and observer. Two involve Amma-ji, a note explains Amma-ji means dearest mother/mother-in-law. Both have a feeling of tenderness. In “Life Support”, Amma-ji and the narrator watch nature programmes,

“The Emperor penguin on his egg: if it broke

we’d watch him warm a smooth, round rock instead.
Now they tell us you’ve been dead all week –

that your lips twitch from intubation,
your fingers grip mine out of primitive habit.

I tell them: go, let me incubate my rock.”

The Emperor penguin broods a substitute rock because the rest of the flock need him to stay with them and play his part in keeping them all collectively warm. If those who lost eggs all left to return to the seas, too few would remain to allow all to survive. He uses the rock to mimic his fellow penguins. The life-support machines allow Amma-ji to mimic life while the poem’s narrator has to adjust to life without her.

“The Bone that Sang” is tender, wryily humoured and humane in the treatment of its subjects. Claire Booker writes lyrical poems with compassion, allowing readers to construct the stories they tell.

“The Bone that Sang” is available from Indigo Dreams Publishing.

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.

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“Hex” Jennie Farley (Indigo Dreams Publishing) – poetry review

Hex Jennie Farley“Hex” mixes up figures from myth and legend with ordinary people. This isn’t done to bring legends down to size but to elevate the every-day and ask readers to look again at the familiar, focusing on significant, relatable moments. In “Salome”, who was King Herold’s step-daughter, she is eyeing the men in the room, “Look at that fat one/ sprawling on his throne, bloated like a pig”, whilst dancing for them,

“Anything is yours if you will dance for me.
My bare feet slap on marble, my breasts bounce,
my skirts become a frenzied whirl of fire

as the musicians madden to crescendo.
What power I have Anything you want.
Your bleeding head is brought me on a plate.

My eyes feast upon the gore at your gaping mouth.”

Dancing whilst all eyes are on her may make her feel powerful, but when she tests that power by asking for the head of John the Baptist, her focus turns to the blood and gore. It’s left to readers to work out if this is a pyrrhic victory or success. What happens when the music stops?

In “Pearls”, a widowed mother, who’d met her late husband at a tea dance is on a walk with her daughter to find the tree planted in his memory,

“she turns to me, smiles, holds out her hand.
She is a girl again. And to some ballroom music
only she can hear, we are dancing together,
waltzing, in and out of the willows.”

The power of dance to trigger memories is transformative. An ordinary walk becomes magical. Grief can become a celebration of the life loss, not just sadness. There’s a note of regret in “Stone Child, Bone Child” which looks at the life of fossil expert, Mary Anning,

“I have no book-learning, but I’ve
argued with clever men and been
proved right. I’ve had no time
for friends or family. There was
a man once, but nothing came of it.

At the foot of the road to the sea
is a small museum named in my honour.
These labelled specimens will last for ever”

Uneducated because she was girl, she nevertheless built an expert knowledge of Britain’s Jurassic coast and the fossils she discovered. “I’ve had no time/ for friends or family” isn’t just a statement of the choosing a career over family or an obsession for work but a pointer to how unusual that made her for her time and how that was a deterrent for potential suitors. Use of the word “small” to describe the museum suggests it’s not quite the honour it should be.

In “Tea Candles” a shop-lifter, an otherwise invisible, elderly woman, collects things for a tea party she’ll never have and guests who will never be invited so

“no one would ever see inside
the airing cupboard on the landing,
each shelf heaped with bootees,
knitted baby bonnets, plastic
rattles of pink and blue.”

Where unfulfilled dreams become an obsession akin to Miss Haversham’s, who also makes an appearance in “Hex”, wedding dress. The poem questions how well we know people we regularly see and how much attention we pay.

“Hex” takes familiar figures from myth and legend and re-examines them alongside poems focusing on ordinary people who are often overlooked. The poems have a conversational rhythm, making them easy to read because of the skill deployed in choice of words. They are as compelling as a gossiped confession but show compassion rather than malice. Readers are asked to empathise and laugh with their subject, not at it. “Hex” is a collection to return to and dip in.

“Hex” by Jennie Farley is available from Indigo Dreams Publishing.

“The Density of Salt” Kate Garrett (Indigo Dreams Publishing) – poetry review

The Density of Salt by Kate Garrett book cover

Wandering girls, hints of selkies, Hans Christian Anderson, shaman-like crows and urban jungles give a non-Disney fairytale feel to some of these poems. Their narrator (and the poet) left the US for the UK, touched on in “Eighteen Years Later”

“I squeeze two miles

out of these trails, out of my
lungs. The hour is grey

and the world is waiting
for me to put it back together.

I breathe in acres of air,
and the hours I’ve lost.”

It’s a bittersweet victory: a new life but the baggage of the old has to be shrugged off, as explored in “JFK to Heathrow” which ends

“Now the stale night inside the jet predicts
the present: I see him waiting at the end
of the line. Scrying in a plastic cup of California white

as we cruise seven miles above a stretch
of lapis-grey, I leave behind the twinkle
of a city holding on to people who talk like me,
who are less like home than where I’m headed.”

Those last two lines acknowledge that most people don’t leave the city they grew up in, yet the land where everything’s familar is no longer home. Home is a place full of strangers. This is common in people estranged from their families. The displaced young woman is no vulnerable princess but a warrior, in “Kitten,” which hints at the cause of displacement,

“I was the runt of the litter,
shying away from the diamond
boom of her laughter,

and I ran, tumbled
over moss beneath
the weeping willow tree

and climbed higher –
circling her head,
refusing to come down.

Years passed, I landed on my feet –
a scarred tigress, sweating brining
my hair, a flash of broken teeth

and claws snatching the caramel
song from her throat.”

Diamonds are sparkly and attention-seeking but also cold and hard. Their surface reflects so it takes a keen observer to see the stone beneath the sparkle. The “boom of laughter” suggests it was loud for effect and seeking an audience rather than in compassion for the mother’s youngest child who learnt to distance herself. The “broken teeth” suggest internal damage capable of being hidden. In the wild, a tigress with broken teeth is at risk of not being able to feed herself and so becomes vulnerable despite her image as a fearsome predator. Some victims of abuse do create a seemlingly invulnerable outer skin to protect their vulnerability within. There is a happy ending though, in “After Poetry”

“… Your kiss filtered
down through strands
of my hair, tingled there for days
though I told myself nothing
would happen. Now here we are, after dark:
I trace the shape of you in a skylight
out of body but in your arms after
reaching a point when we decide
we’ve said enough.”

“The Density of Salt” measures its tears without sentimentality or self-pity. It uses a dose of myth and fairytale, a generous sprinkle of humour, zest and, most importantly, a youthful sense of curiousity, energising the present.

“The Density of Salt” is available from Indigo Dreams.

“Grapes in the Crater” Camilla Lambert (Indigo Dreams Publishing) – poetry review

Camilla Lambert Grapes in the Crater book cover

Camilla Lambert’s poems often start with the familiar, family relationships, falling in love, television journalist, then she injects a small dose of magical realism to lift the poem from simple, acute observation. She draws on fairytales, especially in “Red Rescue” which starts,

“She was new-born, un-looked for.
They wrapped her in the sumptuous cloak
of a cardinal. It re-woke her walnut heart,
banished the blue from her lips.”

The poem keeps its internal logic, drawing imagery from Hans Christian Anderson’s “Red Shoes” and ending on an image of a fading sunset no longer reflecting red onto the sea’s waves so the blue waters pick up the image in “blue from her lips.” Camilla Lambert doesn’t rely on readers’ knowledge of fairytales or surreal images. “Sequoia” begins

“My mother is fading. Long silences
between words.
I give her a tree.

To be exact it is a giant sequoia
and its height
is like a Bach chorale.

She wants to know how old it is
and I tell her
over three thousand years.”

The permanence of nature is a comforting gift. The act of sharing and inclusion is brought to the fore at the end of the poem:

“At the end I show her all the family
balanced in pairs
along the highest branches.

She swings her way up, smart and agile
as a chamoix.
She calls out Wait for me!”

The exuberant “Acting my Age” has each stanza leads into the next and the ages jump around, as memories often do.

“When I was twelve I knew how disease tasted,
cold as a pebble in a mountain stream
and what lay behind the warning ‘Beware
the wash of passing ships. Staggering
up the shifting beach I had reached fifty-six.

When I was fifty-six I took a younger lover,
sex coloured my life crimson, purple, gold.
Peonies and foxgloves were my heralds,
each day another day in paradise, bright
as if I was in love and only sixteen.”

The poem highlights the gap between physical years and spiritual years with its suggest that you’re really only as old as you feel. A fresh experience brings the feeling of being young again. “Blackberry Bush with Hornet”, a sonnet, begins

“See us, fellow gatherers, a fiery hornet and me,
giving each other leave to investigate and taste.”

Camilla Lambert handles nature and people equally well. She understands craft, takes on flights of imagination which she weaves within cycles of life.

Camilla Lambert’s “Grapes in the Crater” is available from Indigo Dreams Publishing.

“Beyond Wings” Alison Lock (Indigo Dreams Publishing) – poetry review

Beyond Wings Alison Lock book coverAlison Lock paints with words, using nature to explore an inner world. In “Kingfisher – upriver from Pulteney Bridge” a tour guide can’t hold attention from “the tip of a peacock’s feather that now/ adorns a tiny bird in a dull tree.” She experiments with form: there are haibun, verbal mirror poems and also prose poems often ending in a short, centred final stanza, e.g. “Playground” (complete poem):

“As we drive past the park, I see children on swings, their legs kicking out, sending them higher and higher, a boy turning a roundabout, whizzing, faster and faster as a girl watches. I see a single tree, leafless branches like unsheathed bones, bending towards them in a half embrace. It is as if the sap has stopped and the tree is shunned, abandoned by the fertile rush of leaf and seed and pod and bud and all the other bursting things like meadow grass and hedge. The cries and shouts and delights from the playground echo, becoming smaller and smaller, until the park, this moment in time, has gone, out of sight, beyond the quarter light.

not knowing
the sky is endless”

The familiar image of children in a playground very much in the spring of their lives compared with the wintered tree is transformed by the image of the shunned tree and the children’s lack of knowledge of their potential. The abandoned tree also suggests that knowledge brings responsibility which, passed on too early, will diminish their childhood.

“fugue” is about starlings but also could be a metaphor:

on harp wires
rows of late leavers
starlings on a stave
awaiting the fulcrum
of a fickle tide
for the fugue”

The references to “harp wires” and “stave” clearly point to the musical definition of fugue as a short melody introduced and then taken up by other instruments as the starlings wait for a leader to lead the flock into the air. They behave like any group of people who know what they have to do but are hesitantly hanging back not wanting to be first and waiting for someone to signal when to start.

Grief is handled with sensitivity, in “Joining up the dots”

“I see the tension in her arm,
folding in flour, milk, tears,
while my cutter is making
the shape of a star.

At night we look up to the loved ones,
as they join up the dots,
sketching their ploughs
and bears and dragons until –

Up there!
she points to the new arrival,
the one that pulls on the thread – still attached to our hearts.”

The human condition is firmly linked to nature, which, closely observed, can offer us lessons in dealing with obstacles and problems. Alison Lock shows a knowledge of words worn lightly, choosing familiar vocabulary to introduce and communicate ideas whilst also being mindful of the potential interpretations of each word chosen.

“Beyond Wings” is available from Indigo Dreams Publishing.

“Ghosts in the Desert” Book Launch

Ghosts in the Desert from Indigo Dreams Publishing

Ghosts in the Desert from Indigo Dreams Publishing

Saturday 4 July

From 3pm Free Entry Refreshments provided.

I will be talking about “Ghosts in the Desert” and reading some of the poems from the collection.

Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the launch or can be ordered from Indigo Dreams Publishing.

Friends (Quaker) Meeting House, Queens Road, Leicester, LE2 1WP