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!





Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Forward!

Thrilled that my poem A Hum (see below) has been put forward for The Forward Prize by Artemis poetry! Yeah!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Nature Cure published in The Interpreter's House Autumn 2015

This poem was written very spontaneously from the simple prompt of 'neglect' as a theme. I've long been interested in the fine line between freedom and neglect in the context of childhood, as well as in the sense of the natural environment as being innately nurturing.


Nature Cure



Neglect your child. Set her free to find home
in bogs brash with marigolds, cuckoo flowers,
harebells in heather.

She’ll dawdle the braes peeling rushes,
find green valleys tender,
dream alone by a loch on Bin Mountain. 

Lay no tables. She’ll know
to slip a hand under the maran’s downy breast
for warm eggs; learn to make fire,

build shelters in hollows of bracken
- she’d rather watch fine rain fall
than feel the cold stove.

Or she’ll slink to cottages
where embers wink
under black-bellied pots of purties:

a sprinkle of salt, a cup of blue milk
with a wrinkle of cream from the churn.
A curl of new kittens to hold. 

She’ll mount an old donkey with fostered boys
split skin in a fall, let them laugh,
spit on grazed hands.

When navy serge stiffens with first blood
she’ll know the stale smell of herself - her shame
and knuckles blistered scrubbing stains.

But alone she’ll find her own wild cries,
hidden in hay bales and on branches rising
to open skies. She never was yours.

She’ll hitch-hike to Istanbul
sleep under new arrangements of stars
with the half moon lying back.

She’ll not know where a day 
will put her down, may learn to trust
the mysterious kindness of strangers.