Recent Poetry from Bloodaxe

Carolyn Forché’s In the Lateness of the World reviewed by Tom Laichas

In the Lateness of the World by Carolyn Forché. £10.99. Bloodaxe Books. ISBN: 978-1852249649

In the late 1970s, Carolyn Forché, a promising poet with a prize-winning first collection, was deep into a project translating the work of El Salvadoran poet Claribel Alegría. One day, Alegría’s nephew, Salvadoran activist Leonel Gómez Vides, showed up at Forché’s door and asked — insisted — that she come with him to El Salvador, where state-sponsored repression had expanded into remote villages. “What he wanted,” she later recalled, was for a poet to speak out here in the United States, with the moral authority conferred on poets in Latin America. The word of poets meant something there. He imagined that this might be true in the United States as well. I tried to explain that it was different here. I don’t think he believed me. [Chard deNiord, interview with Carolyn Forché, World Literature Today, January 2017].

After she got over her shock — she’d never met Gómez — she consented. He took her all over the country, at considerable risk to them both, where she witnessed the aftermath of egregious abuses, assassinations, and massacres. What she saw transformed her and her work. When she returned, she wrote a celebrated second book, The Country Between Us (1981). One poem from that collection, “The Colonel,” is as chilling a dissection of dictatorial impunity as you will ever read, and remains among the most consequential poems of the last fifty years.

“The Colonel” is no political rant. Forché reports actual events (nearly verbatim, she says) without gratuitous comment. It is an instance — really, an archetype — for what she and Czesław Miłosz dubbed the “poetry of witness.” Drawing from thoughtful readings of Martin Buber, Emanuel Levinas, and Emanuel Derrida, Forché distinguishes this “poetry of witness” from other kinds of political composition. Here’s how she states the case in her preface to the anthology Poetry of Witness:

In the poetry of witness, the poem makes present to us the experience of the other, the poem is the experience, rather than a symbolic representation. When we read the poem as witness, we are marked by it, and become ourselves witnesses to what it has made present before us. Language incises the page, wounding it with testimonial presence, and the reader is marked by encounter with that presence. Witness begets witness.

Forché believes that once we’ve truly witnessed violence against human persons, we are better able to see that those persons as persons. Formerly conceived as objects, they are revealed as Martin Buber’s Thou — not strangers, but an intimates; not things, but persons as sacred as ourselves.

This is quite a claim: that poetry possesses an often untapped power to restore moral sight to the self-blinded. Bringing this off requires of Forché an uncompromising gaze, a gaze that forcefully compels readers to see with their own eyes what happens when human beings are treated as mere instruments for the seizure and consolidation of power.

In the Lateness of the World, that gaze is at its most unflinching, as in Forché’s “The Ghost of Heaven”:

The girl was found (don’t say this)
with a man’s severed head stuffed
into her where a child would have been.
No one knew who the man was.
Another of the dead.
So they had not, after all,
killed a pregnant girl.

Don’t say this, she writes. Then she says it. And the reader, reciting the lines aloud, says it too. Here is a startling example of Forché’s declaration that “witness begets witness,” the reader looking through rather than at the poem to witness the scene the poem frames.

To voice a stranger’s agony can, in hands of lesser skill, go very wrong, veering into culturally obtuse ventriloquism or, worse, turning atrocity into pornography. It is far too easy to transform the site of a massacre into mere spectacle, viewed from the most privileged position of all: that of the living who weep audibly over the bodies of the dead. Repulsed by the prospect of such sentimental grotesquery, Theodor Adorno famously declared that “to write a poem after Auschwitz is barbaric.” Forché understands what led Adorno to make that remark, but would no doubt reply that, especially since Auschwitz, there’s nothing more barbaric than the diffident silence of an averted gaze.

Given the stakes, it is no wonder that Forché takes such considerable time with her work. In the past forty years, while many of her peers have written a dozen or more collections, she has published just four. After The Country Between Us (1981), readers waited thirteen years for The Angel of History (1994), another nine for Blue Hour (2003), and seventeen more for In the Lateness of the World (2020).

In the Lateness of the World is very sparing in its direct description of human cruelty. As a result, when the ugliness does appear on the page, it is unexpected and shocking. Don’t say this, Forché writes. But it is said, and the reader, forced to see and speak, does not forget the experience.

It is exactly because such direct language is rare that it is so deeply unsettling. Some things only need to be said once. As Forché surely knows, such searing language leaves an after-image. Once you’ve seen the girl in “Ghost of Heaven,” you remember her while reading the rest of Forché’s poems — or, that evening, hearing certain news reports. She’s with you always. Because she embeds memory of horror so deeply in us, Forché can, in subsequent poems, call that horror to the surface without again reciting it. To do so, she invokes absences, denials, and repudiations, the rhetorical technique called apophasis:

so many
words for no one and nothing,
until history came for them too
with its years of industry and waste

(“The Last Bridge,” emphasis in original)


There is no album for these, no white script on black
paper, no dates stamped in a border, no sleeve, no fire,
no one has written on the back from left to right.

(“Tapestry”)


to speak is not yet to have spoken,
the not-yet of a white realm of nothing left
neither for itself nor another
a no-longer already there, along with the arrival of what has been
light and the reverse of light
terror as walking blind along the breaking sea, body in whom I lived
the not-yet death darkening what it briefly illuminates
an unknown place as between languages

(“What Comes”)

No, nothing, not-yet, nothing left, neither…nor, no-longer: what the page effaces, imagination restores. The effect works as well in “Morning on the Island,” a poem of environmental loss:

There is an owl living in the forest behind us, but he is white,
Meant to be mistaken for snow burdening a bough.
They say he is the only owl remaining. I hear him at night
Listening for the last of the mice and asking who of no other owl.

(“Morning on the Island”)

The “who of no other owl” — this is how loss is conjured. And this is how Forché writes what really are half-finished poems, poems that gape with absence. It’s the reader who completes these poems, supplying that ready image of what’s gone. So it is that Forché transmutes reading into witnessing.

Forché’s allusive figuration reinforces this effect. One recurring image, for instance, is that of a boat. At first, in “The Boatman,” she is very explicit about what she has in mind:

We were thirty-one souls, he said, in the gray-sick of sea
in a cold rubber boat, rising and falling in our filth
By morning this didn’t matter, no land in sight,
all were soaked to the bone, living and dead.

we fetched a child, not ours, from the sea, drifting face-
down in a life vest, its eyes taken by fish or the birds above us.

Leave, yes, we’ll obey the leaflets, but go where?
To the sea to be eaten, to the shores of Europe to be caged?

Here again, one concussive poem bruises every subsequent page. After “The Boatman,” every reference to the sea powerfully evokes desperation and loss. Hers are bleak tides, “blank-lit,” “black-winged,” and “gray-sick.” All her boats — the prau (“Report from the Island”), the “ruins of boats” (“A Bridge”), the “boat with a cargo” (“Passage”), the “rubber boats ripped / into the tough waves” (“Mourning”) — are that boat, carrying those souls.

Forché’s allusiveness extends to her landscapes. She does mention specific places: Rome, Hué, Aleppo, Raqaa. Often, though, she substitutes epithets: “the City of the Poor” or the “sinking metropolis” or the “distant city,” or the “city of smugglers and violinists,” or the “City Under Siege,” Places are simultaneously real and allegorical. They are there, but could be here. It’s as if Italo Calvino had turned to political journalism.

She intensifies this dislocation by showing rather than explaining. A reader may know how there came to be boat people on the Mediterranean, why death squads massacred Central American peasants, or how the vast plains of mid-century central and eastern Europe became, to borrow Tim Snyder’s phrase, “bloodlands.” To embed these events in their histories risks rationalization and excuse. Prior to understanding context — prior, really, to studying these events as history — we must, Forché believes, accept a universal truth: that to purposefully inflict suffering on another person, regardless of the reasons, is morally abject.

In her introduction to The Poetry of Witness, Forché insists that “the text we read” — that is, the poems she aspires to write — “becomes a living archive.” In the Lateness of the World reveals that archive through its vanished papers and objects. In “The Lost Suitcase,” a thief

expecting valuables, instead found books written
between wars, gold attic-light, mechanical birds singing
and the chronicle of your country’s final hours.

In “Light of Sleep,” there is a “library of night,” containing, though impossible to see,

… drawings
of skeletons digging graves and inviting us to accompany
the corpse of x to the church of y, gift coupons, greeting cards
housekeeping accounts, ice papers to place in windows
for the delivery of blocks of ice, jury papers, keepsakes,
lighthouse dues slips for all ships entering or leaving ports,
marriage certificates, news bills, notices to quit, oaths, papers,
dolls …

In “Travel Papers,” we find
… imaginary
maps, smoke chased by wind, a registry
of arrivals, the logs of ghost
ships, and a few prison
diaries written on tissue paper.

These inventories are powerfully cinematic, reminding me of Lori Nix’s post-apocalyptic dioramas, Walter Arnold’s striking images of the abandoned Cossitt Library in Memphis, Tennessee, and Camilo José Vergara’s photographic record of urban abandonment, American Ruins. All recall human life by recording human absence.

As Forché erases people and their belongings from the earth, we gradually recognize ourselves among the erased. To achieve this, she frequently uses the rhetorical “you.” Sometimes it’s clear to whom she speaks. More often, she leaves this you ambiguous. As a consequence, many poems point an index finger directly out from the page and straight at the reader, as here in “Toward the End”:

you have gone under and come back, light, no longer tethered
to your own past.

It’s worth noting that while Forché points to you, the reader, she very rarely points to herself. She does not draw upon the pain of others to assess her own interior life or implicate her participation in oppressive systems. Because she absents herself from most of the scenes she describes, she makes room for the more consequential absence of others. This absenting-of-self runs counter to a confessional style that too often gets mixed into political poems, to their detriment.

And yet, so far as I can tell, these poems all grew out of events Forché herself has witnessed or conversations with people she has known. That means there’s nothing about (say) Rwanda in 1994, Chile in 1973, or Cambodia in the late 1970s. In the Lateness of the World is not a comprehensive Amnesty report or one of The Guardian’s long reads. Forché’s restraint, I think, speaks to her enormous integrity.

This is one book that should be judged, or at least understood, by its cover. That cover features Zsolt Kudich’s photo of an egret, its wings fully open in ritual courtship. The bird is both breathtakingly familiar (those angelic wings!) and eerily alien (that needle-beaked inhuman head!). Kudich took the photo for an ecological project completed with fellow photographer Réka Zsirmon. Its full title is: “Changing Fortunes of the Great Egret: A remarkable conservation success story, the Great Egret was saved from the brink of disappearance in Hungary.”

In its original context, the photo is not elegiac or tragic. It is not about death or disappearance. Instead it signifies one of the world’s billion annual beginnings. It is an image that sings of renewal and hope.

Forché populates many of her poems with birds. There is, In the Lateness of the World, an egret. There are also doves, gamecocks, starlings, swallows, swifts, swans, and storks. Some, like the owl, suffer for flying too close to human attention. But most remain free, and their flights and flutterings suggest possible worlds beyond our crude bloody-mindedness.

As I read these poems, I thought often of Kudich’s resplendent bird.

And I thought: Maybe, after all, it’s not yet so late in the world.Tom Laichas‘s Empire of Eden was published by The High Window Press in 2019. Other recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Oddville Press, Stand, Spillway, Rappahannock Review, and elsewhere. A chapbook, Sixty-Three Photographs from the End of a War, is forthcoming later this year from 3.1 Press.

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Pascale Petit’s Tiger Girl reviewed by Sarah James

Tiger Girl by Pascale Petit. £8.99. Bloodaxe Books. ISBN: 978-1780375267

With Pascale Petit’s Tiger Girl, I’m wonderfully spoiled for choice on where to start and focus a review. These are poems of night and starlight, fire and blazing tiger stripes, birth and death, death and explosions of lupins (‘Her Flowers’), maybe even “constellations | of exotic fruit” (‘Sky Ladder’). And, of course, much more. One of the many delights to this collection is that it encompasses so many things, often near to simultaneously: love and loss, the natural world and human experience, beauty and cruelty…

The framework for this is the poet-narrator’s exploration of heritage and memories, her own and her grandmother’s life, in India and in Wales. Yet, everything within this is closely interwoven and connected. Sometimes the viewpoint is the poet-narrator’s. Other times it is the “tiger-girl” grandmother’s, or a merging of both. Humans and animals also live not just side by side but sharing experiences and the harshness of survival, stretched further then to commodification.

In ‘In the Forest’, “just one rib of baagh can buy a cow” and the whole poem vividly depicts example after example of animals poached, slaughtered and used for whatever human value they can bring. Later, in the heart-breakingly powerful poem ‘Pangolin’, one pangolin (even “perhaps the last”) is “like winning the lottery”, her scales “coins of a rare vintage” and “her pelt forged | by the great goldsmith in the sky”.

Meanwhile, in ‘Indian Roller’, the market of Murgi Chowk is:

a bazaar of cages, of tied feet, glued wings.
I’m not going to break your heart by saying
when you sent me back to my mother

she glued my wings together to stop me escaping.

The reality of escape here would be recapture by bird charmers to be sold again, with all the echoes of slavery and women treated as possessions as well as cruelty that this evokes.

The tiger and birds may be recurring motifs but so are many other animals – deer, leopards, langurs, elephants… as well as forests, jungles and gardens. When it comes to family, animal and human are often inseparable, almost sharing skin and fur.

In ‘My Mugger Crib’, a mother whispers unusual bedtime stories to the baby lying in a crib of crocodile skin (this hide painfully separated from the living creature). A nursing tigress and other animals come to the infant’s tent and watch over the baby as “my true mothers”.

Meanwhile, in ‘Chital Girl’, the narrator asks if her ‘markings’ are:

the white spots of a deer

or the black spots of the beast?

I don’t know who I am. […]

In ‘Tiger Gran’, the poet-narrator speak of her gran as someone “for whom I would weed the world”. Tiger Gran’s full passed-down story gleaned here and from other poems is that she was her father’s maid’s daughter brought up as his white wife’s child. As a “hybrid rose”, her face is a map of India in summer and Wales in the winter, her nose like a mountain between two countries.

Heritage may be a journey of self-discovery and belonging, but more than this, it can bring realisation of an individual’s place or part within the world. It’s such a sense, perhaps, that ultimately leads to increased appreciation of, and responsibility for, that world. Alongside the absences of settled human family experiences, nature becomes a strong kindredship.

In ‘Passport’, the poet-narrator’s real passport is one sewn from leaves with slug-trail text, an ocean watermark and biometric fingerprints that “have a scent only a jackal can read”. Bureaucracy, country divides, residency and the notion of ‘foreigner’ have different meanings here:

Home Office –
I am a citizen of the wild,
my address is a cloud,

This poem illustrates too how much the past in this collection still vividly shapes the present and is carried with us – as shown in the very first poem, ‘Her Gypsy Clothes’, where memories burn “slow as anthracite” and:

[…] some colours don’t fade
XXXXXhowever deep they’re buried

In ‘Baghwa’, the village vicar comes to have his fortune told by ‘tiger-gran’ and:

She rises from her flowery bed and wraps
XXXXXXthe garden around her like a sari,

carries a mountain on her head […]

Later on, in ‘Treasure Cupboard’, the television casts “black and white stripes | that roar over” the grandmother’s face and, once the test card goes, the screen “monsoons”.

These quotations are only a few examples of the ways in which this collection so completely incorporates both the intensely personal and the infinitely universal.

In ‘Walking Fire’, the narrator remembers and re-imagines sitting with her gran by the fire as “two Ice Age queens”. Embers spit “like sabre tooths springing from a cave” while the tigress:

When she leaps onto a stag
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXthe whole world slows
to hear the grass speak from inside the deer.

Imagery and language throughout these poems are colourful and fierce, caring and yet sharp. For me, it is also the close connections – the inseparable linkings as if shape-shifting into different animals – between humans and not just other species but the earth and existence itself that most reinforces their environmental force.

In ‘Mahaman’s Face through Binoculars’, a white chin is “creation’s brush | loaded with mist at the beginning of time”, while the blue in one eye is sky reflected:
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX[…]between blades

of lemon grass and vetivers,
XXXXXXXXXXXas if Earth is rising in her iris.

Meanwhile, in ‘Brown Fish Owl’:

I have survived five million years.
It is said my feathers sing when I fly.
It is said my calls are almost human,

Similarity doesn’t necessarily mean understanding or hearing though, as this poem reminds us. Poems like ‘Forest Guard’ are politically-charged and loaded with a sense of undeniable responsibility. The final lines of the collection also close on a different reminder of our wider impact on the world:

XXXXXXXXXXXXXHow it was we
who discovered fire and with our knowledge

lit the fuse.
(‘Walking Fire’)

That the collection culminates on this note is not to say that there aren’t potential seeds of hope. In ‘The Anthropocene’, a bride wears a dress of peacock feathers, her procession down the aisle likened to a planet with its seas spread out in this bridal train. Every peacock’s eye in these waves is “ a storm | held in abeyance”.

I’ve already mentioned survival and the natural world. Petit’s ‘#ExtinctionRebellion’ doesn’t gloss over “lost species” but does imagine newspapers becoming tree again with a front page of bark. Here, phones “light up with chlorophyll” and people hold “leaves | intently as smartphones”. Technology and the natural world are wonderfully intertwined with a vanda orchid opening as “easily as hypertext”, while phones vibrate like “an apiary of apps”. And the underground (wood wide web) offers the resistance of:

fungal friends working in darkness,
their windows blacked out.

Tiger Girl is an extraordinarily beautiful and profoundly moving collection; this review barely touches on a fraction of what I admired. I’m going to end not with the final poem or the tigress but the bird imagery of ‘Her Bulbul’ because for me it encapsulates so much of a personal family relationship but also of humans living in Earth’s ‘house’ as part of Earth’s family. Here, the poet-narrator is called the grandmother’s little bulbul “because I’ve nested in her house”. Both the child and her grandmother, who was once her own mother’s bulbul, sing. Through this song, the grandmother teaches the old language, that a whole wood may grow from a twig, and:

how each note is an egg
balanced on barbed wire,
and in each egg an unbroken world.

Sarah James/Leavesley is a prize-winning poet, fiction writer, journalist and photographer. Her latest titles include How to Grow Matches (Against the Grain Poetry Press) and plenty-fish (Nine Arches Press), both shortlisted in the International Rubery Book Awards. She was delighted to be The High Window Resident Artist 2019. Website: http://www.sarah-james.co.uk.

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Philip Gross’s Between the Islands reviewed by Glen Wilson

Between the Islands by Philip Gross. £10.99. Bloodaxe Books. ISBN 978-1-78037-506-9

Philip Gross opens his twenty-sixth collection with the marvellous sequence of ‘Edge States’, here Gross brings his customary deft touch to bear as he portrays the frailty and authenticity present throughout these opening poems, in a voice (and at times multiple voices) unafraid to deal with the grey areas and the difficult feelings:

‘and tears/the cold brings, all the purer without/tincture of emotion, tears clean/the eyes, for no sake but the sake of clarity, which should sting.’

The tone is mellifluous but daring, jabbing and jarring when necessary as in
Nocturne with a view of the pier: ‘a pier is a tease. A come on even when it’s empty’.

The vital and vivid language of ‘The Age of electricity’ was a particular pleasure, illuminating the subject and casting fresh light on it at the same time with a staccato rhythm that moves across the page like power lines but is conversely seamless. Gross paints startling images in nature through such pieces as a ‘Shag, Rampant’, and the isolated bull in Himself. But it is the thoughts and epiphanies he draws from and in the movement of water in all its various forms that permeates all this poems, imbuing floes, riptides and ice with candour and challenge. I especially love this line from ‘A Wave’:

‘A wave /is singular and plural. Human pyramid /aquiver /as it builds-shoulder to shoulder, /hand to hand…’

For me ‘The House of innumerable things’ is the standout poem of the collection, the collection in microcosm in many ways, managing to pack so much in without being dense and arduous.

‘…clutter is the outward form of nothing rightly known, a rife amnesia that’s lost the point of itself’

The title sequence, ‘Between the Islands’, shows his mastery and then his breaking of form with his fifteen line ‘odd snagged sonnets’ as he tackles absence and grief eschewing sentimentality for pieces that keep the conversation going between the one left behind and the one who has gone:

‘Where in the world/are we? Or out of it? We’re on the edge/more often than we think. Then one of us/is nowhere’

The interplay and tension of the tactile and spiritual makes this such an enlightening and rewarding collection, drawing you in with something familiar only to heighten the experience with unacquainted thoughts.

Glen Wilson lives in Portadown with his wife and children. He is a civil servant and Worship Leader at St Mark’s Church of Ireland Portadown. He studied English/Politics at Queens University Belfast and has a Post-Grad Diploma in Journalism studies from the University of Ulster. He has been widely published having work in The Honest Ulsterman, Iota, The Paperclip amongst others. He won the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing in 2017, the Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Award in 2018 and The Trim Poetry competition in 2019. His first collection of poetry An Experience on the Tongue with Doire Press is out now.

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Heidi Williamson’s Return By Minor Road reviewed by Sheila Hamilton

Return By Minor Road by Heidi Williamson. £9.95. Bloodaxe Books. ISBN 978-1-78037-522-9

Some readers will no doubt already be familiar with the work of Heidi Williamson; I come to it as a newcomer but on the basis of this new collection I am looking forward to catching up with the “backlist.” Heidi Williamson currently lives in Wymondham in Norfolk (incidentally, a town which in recent years has become home to several well-regarded poets) but back in 1996 she was a 20-something living in the Scottish town of Dunblane. Here is “From”in its entirety:

From the hallway you can see into every corner of our small flat.
From the kitchen window: the rose garden, golf course, the Trossachs.
From the bath you can see Glen Road’s sky and sky framed.
From tomorrow all this will be different.

On March 13th that year, as many reading this will remember clearly, a lone gunman went to Dunblane Primary School, entered the gym and starting firing. Within a few minutes he killed 16 children and their teacher, wounded further children and two further members of staff and then, as is so often the case with such incidents, took his own life. Return By Minor Road explores the aftershocks of that event.

What led me to this particular book was, largely, curiosity: how would Williamson approach something so difficult? In the wrong hands, such a series of poems could be excruciating. It could be mawkishly sentimental, especially as the event involved small children; it could come over as merely journalistic, a reporting of facts already well known; it could feel intrusive, exploitative, crassly ill-judged. Williamson manages to avoid all these possible pitfalls.

The collection is made up of three parts of roughly equal length. The second, central section (“Cold Spring”) has as its entire focus the event itself (“Now is the time when the world/is blown open.”) and its immediate aftermath; the first and third sections examine the ongoing legacy of the event and are situated mainly in the present. In “The wall”, the opening poem, the poet tends her child in 2018, a small child, someone who can’t have been born at the time of the tragedy, someone who is too young to know what happened:

Your soft toys shift and slide as I cover you.
My mind slides towards small absent ones
I cared for in passing. . .

There is a gentle touch in the words used, plain phrases, understatement and it is this, I think, which is part of the collection’s power and why it works so well. Instead of laying the obvious on very thickly, Williamson focusses on everyday details, the minutiae of the domestic. The poem “It’s twenty-two years ago and it’s today” is partly a recitation of domestic ordinariness: “You wake at five with our son. . .You clean. Toilets. Bathroom. Hoover. . . Our son eats cake. . .We shop for Sunday’s chicken. . .” Yet in between these details there are others that point to what happened twenty-two years, to the trauma which plays itself over and over: “We think. We can’t think. We stare at the garden. Pretend to watch the birds. . .We don’t read the papers. . .We keep our thoughts to ourselves. . .” Towards the end, it is this second strand that becomes dominant: “We know neither of us will sleep. We put tea-lights on the table. Neither of us says why. We save shouting for the next day.”

Approaching the collection, I wondered how the poet stood in relation to the events. I think I’m correct in saying she is not a one of the bereaved parents or a bereaved sibling. She is described in the blurb as “part of a Scottish community which suffered an inconceivable tragedy.” She places herself within the events as “incoherent bystander” and this incoherence is expressed most fully in the two-part poem “Cold Spring.” It’s impossible to set out “Cold Spring”here as it exists on the page: it is hesitant, staccato, in a voice that is struggling to speak, and around the odd words, the incomplete phrases (“you want to jolt awake/you want”) there is a lot of white space. As there is in “Elegy”, the only poem in the book that gives the actual names of the dead. That is the entirety of “Elegy”: 16 children and their teacher, and white spaces.

Traumatic events occur on a specific date, of course, yet ripple and echo and resonate through time. Also, and Williamson explores this at length, they become an unshakeable part of the place’s fabric. In “Lepus Timidus” the creature is light and slender, its newly winter-white body exposing “tender flesh”, and it runs “uphill on the scree/screaming the eagle away”; in short, it is not only a hare but also a cipher for the children under attack in the school. In “Dumyat”, a place acquires a particular poignancy that it did not possess before:

At the summit we kept numb vigil
for what we couldn’t say. . .

. . .On spring days
now, when cold tips the hills

I can see its cairn and trig point,
that chopped obelisk at its peak,
distant sheep folds, memorials of snow.

There are so many things to admire in this collection: the varied forms, the sensitivity to landscape, the first-person voice that is never intrusive or narcissistic. It is a brave book and I hope it reaches a wide readership.

Sheila Hamilton graduated from the University of East Anglia in 1989 with a degree in French and German, lived and worked in Hungary for two years, then in Scotland for several more years and currently lives in the North West of England. Her poems have been widely published. Her most recent full collection, The Spirit Vaults, came out from Green Bottle Press in 2017. Her most recent pamphlet, Lotus Moon With Blossom, was published by 4Word in 2019.

*****

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