Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Artemis has arrived!


The beautiful cover of my newest book, published by Three Drops Press last month!

I call it a myth-interpretation - or a performance piece in verse, based on the mythical twins, Artemis and Apollo.

The Greek Goddess Artemis - whom the Romans called Diana - is mythology's arch-outsider - lesbian feminist, environmental activist, radical midwife, shaman huntress, man-slayer when necessary, and like her tragic namesake, called the People's Priestess. Her twin brother Apollo, despite his extravagant juvenile delinquency, was elevated to be God of civilisation, harmony, proportion, and music.


"Greenhill applies the mind of a scholar, the ear of a poet, and the eye of a painter to create a fascinating allegory that explores the conflict between patriarchy and matriarchy as expressed in the sibling rivalry between twins Artemis and Apollo. An amazing achievement." 

Debbie Taylor, Editor of Mslexia magazine

"Cora Greenhill's verse drama begins on the day of the cataclysmic volcanic eruption which irreparably changes the ancient island of Crete and its inhabitants... a sensuous and heady brew of jealousies, same-sex passions,  hints of incest and rites of passage. Modern day reference and vernacular with a liberal scattering of humour ensure it is both accessible and captivating from start to finish." 

Geraldine Monk, poet
"Artemis: The People’s Priestess pulses with light, heat and movement. The collection tells the ‘back story’ of Artemis ... through a series of dramatic poems spoken by different characters. Like Tony Harrison’s translations of Greek Comedy, it restores the physicality and vibrancy of the original Greek myths, incorporating dance, rhythm and humour. This is a wonderful collection, and left me with the fire of Artemis in my belly."


Rachel Bower, poet

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Review of Far from Kind by Mandy Pannett

Another lovely review for Far from Kind from Mandy Pannett in Tears in The Fence 65 (edited by David Caddy) - my warmest thanks!


Far from Kind by Cora Greenhill Pindrop Press 2016 £9.99


     Like the orchard in ‘A Hum’, Far from Kind is flooded with light. Here the poems are lightscapes – ‘changing lightscapes we came to call beauty’ (‘Aquatic Ape’), wealthy in gold and kaleidoscopic in colour. Here the sea may reveal ‘the glide of a golden angel fish / then blue spotted ray, / purple parrot, yellow batfish,’ (‘On Chumbe Reef’) or a skyline of birds with wet feathers where the fading day turns ‘mauve, dull silver, deepening grey.’ (‘Last Supper’).
     Far from Kind’ begins with a description of a house being cleaned and prepared for new owners. This involves moving a colony of nesting bees out of the loft, scraping the rafters of honeycombs, of their ‘stash of sticky gold’. (‘The Hum’). This poem sets the tone for the whole collection: the ‘stash’ on display is not just honey but an outpouring of richly sensual, evocative imagery. ‘The Other Hand’ offers us a fine example: ‘I have stirred the cream and the curd/sprinkled spices/cardamon, rose petals, cloves’ says one who has lived among the royal silver-smiths, ‘my skin is silky/as the suspension/of butter in sauce.’ The narrator in ‘Dancing in Zanibar’ is ‘rewarded/with cardamom jellies,/dates softened/in passion fruit.’ We, as readers, are also rewarded, not only with a gorgeous feast of words, but with the fascinating technique of an image personified into metaphor as, for example in ‘The Hum’ where the girl who is clearing out the bees finds ‘the mess’ transformed into a gift of love when she ‘trickles downstairs, slides into night,/belly brimming amber, trembling to be touched, to be tasted.’

     This sense of joy in language, this exuberant exploration of possibilities strikes me as the keynote of Cora Greenhill’s writing. Many phrases such as ‘bogs brash with marigolds’ and ‘harebells in heather’ (‘Nature Cure’) brim with the fun of alliteration or leap off the page with their aptness and wit like ‘lightning that electrocutes the blood’ (‘For My Firstborn’). Among my favourites, also from ‘Nature Cure’, are ‘a wrinkle of cream’ and ‘a curl of new kittens’ closely followed by phrases from ‘Dolphin Trip’ where ‘The bay foams with testosterone/at the first sighting of fins. Twelve speedboats scream/with love lust to spear them,/ snorkels cocked, zooms at the ready’. Opening and closing lines of the poems also show this deftness and precision with words. ‘We would green deserts for that smile’ concludes the narrator in ‘Hannah’s First Birthday’ while ‘Hit’ explores the poignancy of a relationship where ‘Free to leave, you left’ with these ending lines:

There was a time when people thought
smells like oranges and cloves
could keep disease at bay.

But sweets can’t take the pain away
though this is heaven’s scent.

     Others have commented on the images and themes of music and dancing in this collection. They are strong motifs and I would like to explore further the way in which ‘Voices sing words our world has never heard.’ (‘Night in the Museum’). In this deserted museum, closed for restoration many years previously, the marble floor is thick with ‘five winters’ of plane tree leaves, there are ‘wads of cobwebs’ and glass cases at twilight are grimy with dust. Yet above all this there are curves and spirals on vases and jugs that reveal ‘dolphins swimming, dancers arching’ and in an empty Bronze Age room ‘Sistrums/begin to rattle, harps pluck at our hearts.’ Similarly, in ‘For My Firstborn’ the narrator lists an assortment of things she remembers, many things she has loved including ‘drums hammered out from palm oil cans,/rattles of chilli peppers and raffia,/dance steps that vibrate/beyond the feet’. Possible the most striking and original motif of melody and dance is in the poem ‘Single Parent’ where the exhausted mother, faced with her toddler throwing a tantrum on the kitchen floor, copes with her anger by ‘turning the rising/rage into a tarantella no one had taught her, / whirling, to stop herself hurting him.’ In these poems by Cora Greenhill it is not only sistrums that pluck at our hearts.
     There are many voices in Far from Kind including the not only human. There are many settings as well, some exotic, some everyday. There is brutality too, poverty, anger, hardship, an exploration of the seedy and cruel. Most of all, however, there is an overlay to these poems of love, joy and an exuberant relish for ‘the elastic stuff of life’. (‘Hannah’s First Birthday’). In Far from Kind people endure and survive, learn, as in ‘Aquatic Ape’, to see ‘skylight in each other’s eyes’. 



Mandy Pannett

Friday, February 10, 2017

New review of Far from Kind

My deep thanks to D.A. Prince for this review, and to Orbis for publishing it.


RHYTHMS OF HUMAN WARMTH: REVIEW BY D. A. PRINCE Far from Kind by Cora Greenhill, 76 pp, £9.99, Pindrop Press, Mallards,
Steers Place, Hadlow, Kent www.pindroppress.com
Cora Greenhill’s name is well-known because her poems appear regularly in a range of magazines (Orbis 169) and I thought this had given me a sense of familiarity with her work. My mistake. Previous piecemeal acquaintance with a handful of poems was scant preparation for the richly-coloured language and energetic rhythms that drive Far from Kind. It travels through Ireland and Nigeria, Crete and the Peak District, having a constant engagement with people and their way of life. The book proves the bonus of reading a full collection, and concentrating entirely on one poet. Open to ‘the mysterious kindness of strangers’ as much as to her own family, Cora finds colour and texture wherever she is: ‘down here on the cracked heel of Europe’ (‘Borrowers’); ‘Like butterflies with folded wings / pinned primly on the bay.’ (‘Dhows’); ‘... Burbage Brook ...freckled with amber light that flickers through oaks / like half-remembered dreams’ (‘Starting with Rivers’). She is drawn to the natural world, to those who live closer to it.
‘Nature Cure’, its three-line stanzas packed with detail, could be an account of her own childhood as well as providing guidance on child-rearing.
Neglect your child. Set her free to find home in bogs brash with marigolds, cuckoo flowers, harebells in heather.
It’s a celebration of positive neglect, the kind that allows for learning about personal relationship with the rhythms of Nature, knowing: ‘to slip a hand under the Maran’s downy breast / for warm eggs ...’, or which neighbour will give her ‘A curl of new kittens to hold.’ This is the Ulster of Cora’s own childhood. Yet ‘For My Firstborn’ turns unexpectedly from all she had loved about life in Nigeria:
I loved the hypertension before the rains, lightening that electrocutes the blood, maps the night sky with mercury,
ignites yellow bulbs in paw paw trees

54

and where six of the stanzas begin emphatically ‘I loved ...’, to build a pattern of intense engagement, but end with a final couplet in strong emotional contrast with the quatrains:
And I left, to be with your father, make and love you.
Her instinctive response to music and dance rhythms, particularly West African and Cretan, shape her choice of language, such as in the ending of ‘To my Firstborn’, letting the simplicity of monosyllables reveal the elemental in love. It’s most effective. In ‘Dancing in Zanzibar’, she is ‘looped / into the tunes / feet hips hands / unable not to dance’. With ‘Single Parent’, she shows the mother dealing with a toddler’s tantrum by ‘...turning the rising / rage into a tarantella no one had taught her, / whirling, to stop herself hurting him.’ The shifting rhythms between the poems give the collection variety and energy, a human warmth that she has encountered in every country she has travelled - and she travels with her eyes open.
In a world increasingly reduced to computer screens, smartphones and virtual experience, we need poems like these. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Yes - you can buy my books from me!

I sometimes get told that someone has ordered my book from Amazon. Which is fine, if you want to support Amazon. The poet will get nothing from the sale, and the publisher a little. It may not be common knowledge that most poets, myself included, get no royalties. Most small publishers give the poet some books, and sell them more at discounted price. We have to personally sell the books to even get back our outlay. So please support the poets whose work you love by buying from them directly. My email is cora@thirteenthmoon.co.uk - I'll send them by return and post free!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Invitation to launch of Far from Kind




Far from Kind: introduction.


The striking picture on the front of Cora Greenhill's new book is of a collage of her own work - a frame containing debris from the sea - plastic and nylon rope mixed with fragments of seaweed. Inside a fractured mask of Aprodite, symbolising the broken Greek Goddess in the refuse of today's oceans. The dark yet beautiful image sets up some of the themes of the poetry in Far from Kind: sensual, darkly beautiful, suggestive of the precarious edge on which humanity teeters.

The title, Far from Kind, is a phrase taken from the poem In our own Hands, about touch: how we need to learn to be in touch again, deeply and naturally, with each other, and crucially with other species. The poem is triggered by an intimate encounter with an aging baboon, who 'rested her slim palm, cobweb-soft, in mine,' and reflects on how far we've travelled from when our earliest ancestors made the first human footprints in the mud of Africa. Other poems take the reader back to the roots of human ways of thinking and acting. The sonnet, Aquatic Ape, pictures the lives of the earliest humans who gradually migrated along the coasts of Africa, making the radical suggestion that 'Free of the need to hunt to survive/and before labour was invented, ... Holiday was the spur of evolution.' Another poem is in the cynical voice of a woolly mammoth in The Natural History Museum, and another in the voice of the ancient Mesopotamian river God, Enki, despairing of modern politics and hunkering down in his muddy domain.

But Far from Kind is as personal as it is universal, with many poems in a more confessional tradition which also explore unflinchingly human unkindness, whether due to a conditioned fear of another species 'a pretty slip of a thing/purest green serpentine' which causes a snake's unnecessary death in Endangered; or the callous feelings of a liberated young woman towards a lover she's finished with, 'your hunger, so recently/my horn of plenty, just looked like poverty'; or an African philandering professor who assumes FGM to be the norm.

Though the author is a lifelong feminist, the exploration of human frailty and sometimes cruelty in this collection is equally critical and compassionate towards men and women, and all held within an overriding tenderness towards the living world of which we are only a part, with a passionate hope that we can learn from and for the children:

Let her throw socks! we laugh.
Grow those throwing muscles!
Make free with your world
as old gods hurled thunderbolts
when they were gay as Picasso
shaping the elastic stuff of life
like play-dough in their hands,
amazed what they could do. 


(Hannah's First Birthday)

Endorsements for Far from Kind

Here are the lovely comments on the back of Far from Kind!

By Helen Mort, poet, author of  TS Eliot Prize shortlisted Division Street.

'Tender without being sentimental, these are poems that attend carefully to the details that make our world rich: 'the orchard...flooded with light', the 'muscled back' of a great river, an off-key singer who makes the audience dance anyway. Poems that look for the places where 'a day can put you down', or the way life can leave you 'suspended in strangeness'. Every poem is so rich and absorbing. Savour them.' 

By Noel Williams, poet, reviewer, and editor for Orbis and Antiphon. Author of Breath.

'The strongest moments here are Janus-faced. As the poet glories in colour, the palettes of love, sensory delight, mystery, compassion, she sees their shadow: the appetite, a sneering inhumanity, decay, death. The ecstasies of love are found in a ditch. Her poems reach to the light but are rooted in dark earth, with a lyricism that can veer easily into sensuous violence. Her luxuriance in succulent nature spits fragments of grit and blood. She finds anthropological joy in a beggar and thief. In poem after poem she dips into 'the river beneath the river...between tough weeds and broken glass.'

By Carole Bromley, prizewinning poet with several collections including The Stonegate Devils. Judge of Yorkmix Poetry Competition.

'Cora Greenhill, whose strong, witty voice I have always liked, took me on a tour of foreign parts in this excellent new collection. Hers is ‘a voice far from home/melting us like butter.' Her endings are often to die for and there isn’t a weak poem in this book. Whether writing of a neighbour in Crete whose sick wife has ‘smoked haddock skin’; longing to ‘spray paint Wonderbra ads again’; or capturing a thrush, a frog, a much-loved tree given a death sentence, her writing is razor sharp and always engaging.'

By Wendy Klein, prizewinning poet, reviewer, author of Anything in Turquoise, Mood Indigo.

'In this wide-ranging new collection, this poet speaks out in many voices (a heron, a mammoth, the earth itself), for the planet and humankind. Dance is a metaphor that inhabits it. A single mother turns her frustration over a toddler’s tantrum into a dance, ‘The Tarantella’; and even stoats dance! Indeed, the poems themselves break through words into a dance of life:  ‘Feet  hips  hands / unable not to dance,’ in Zanzibar. In a fine sonnet reflecting on Elaine Morgan’s famous aquatic theory of evolution, the poet leaves the ‘aquatic apes’ on the brink of dancing into a whole new stage of existence.' 


Biography

Cora Greenhill grew up in rural Ulster, mostly outdoors, escaping the turbulence of family life. She has lived in The Peak District for nearly 30 years. She studied literature at Warwick University, most memorably with tutor Germaine Greer, a lifelong inspiration. She's had a long and varied teaching career, the high point of which came early, at The Universtiy of Nigeria just after the Biafran War. She moved to Sheffield and became freelance in the heady days of liberal Adult Education. In the same year she met her partner whom she married eleven years later, on a shared journey exploring feminism, the Goddess, Crete, 5Rhythm dancework, African music, and poetry. Their son and grand daughter live in New Jersey. Cora self-published two collections and was widely published before The Point of Waking came out with Oversteps Books in 2013. She hosts Writers in The Bath, the premier poetry reading venue in Sheffield!