Monday, July 22, 2019

Review of Ian Marriott's The Hollow Bone

The Hollow Bone by Ian Marriott (Cinnamon Press, 2017)

Review by Cora Greenhill
(Edited version published in envoi No 182)

There are poems in this collection that seem, like the poles, to be magnetic: I turn to them again and again. There is something essential about them, in both meanings of the word - they are pared down to the essence in poetic terms, and risk territories essential to life that are often avoided and all too rarely articulated this well. They seem to distill what would be left unsaid if not said in precisely this way, while with words they seem to nudge consciousness beyond language. Some poems even insist on this: 

Long held
the tuning forked silence. 

The mirage season is on us,
language detaches itself -  (Terra Infirma 10 & 13)

The opening lines of the first poem wake us up to the power of Marriott's unsparing imagery. 

As if it were not enough
to reduce
the great wild Aurochs
to this swaying udder
drained twice daily - (Bovine)  

A naturalness of expression and bold, wide-ranging utterance is one of the features of this poetry. As one reads on, one realises that the poetry's sense of authority arises from deep personal process, through psychologically dark and dangerous territory, as much as physical journeying to as near the ends of the earth as one can get.  The terrain of the human psyche in extremity, in a state of spiritual emergency, is a major theme in the collection, connected intricately through the pared down imagery with the harsh external landscapes, finding form in stark, unalterable lines.

Stretching out, the polar night -

between buildings
we cling to ropes of frost. (Terra Firma 3) 

A Marriott poem is for the wild, as well as of it, speaking for and as the undomesticated, unexploited species and the remotest landscapes in which they still cling to life: 

green-eyed, glass-eyed
from where you have been,
each iris an ocean trench. (Albatross, from The Hollow Bone)

Here is the voice of a man who knows what he's talking about, has been there more than once: we are sharing something beyond the incidental, momentary epiphanies that feature in much current poetry. Our journey with this poet as guide enters dangerous terrains, but we can be sure of his rock solid experience:

It would have been
map and compass work
all morning - and tricky at that-  (Christmas)

(were it not for the absent fox who has left tracks as 'a gift')

A poem that leaves us in no doubt that we are following a profoundly challenging personal journey is The Inner Work. The two-part poem has a near-perfect, though not symmetrical, equilibrium, starting with flesh as food, ending with escaping being devoured as flesh: the savage compression of a life story.

Nearly forty years,
scratching a living
of meat and offal.

When we might hope or expect the second part to lead out of 'the mahogany twilight', it fails to re-assure us at all: 

Then the real hunger.
The work begins.

Rarely can psychological depths have been so convincingly depicted in poetry since, Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, 'O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall/Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed.' 
But whereas the Jesuit flails around helplessly in his despair, feeling abandoned, pleading for rescue, this seeker reaches for his own animal instinct: 

like the rag-doll seal
of the killer whale-

playing dead,

yet all the while
quietly gathering.

The jaws'
careless release.

Salvation doesn't come as an intervention or revelation of a higher power, but only through what myth would see as an underworld journey, what psycho-analysis would term exploring the unconscious (often symbolised by water in dreams).
The imagery of predatory sea life in this poem carries the poet's total authority, culminating in the reality that however hard we work on ourselves, deliverance is also a matter of chance - if the whale had been hungrier, it might not have been so careless. All human existence depends on the luck of not being in the path of the hungry carnivore or tornado, but it is still a necessity to work on evolving as individuals and societies, more than ever right now.

This is a pivotal poem in the book, and to my mind it is misplaced - my only criticism of the book being that its editing could have been more rigorous: some of the ordering the poems, and in a few cases, the inclusion of weaker poems, means the collection has less poise than the best poems merit.

The polar poems seem to me to be at the heart of the work, their powerful imagery fusing the dominant themes of wilderness/otherness in nature, and the inner/underworld journey of the human soul. The descriptions of the natural landscapes can be breathtakingly beautiful, as in Aurora Landscape; though living in them is the edge of human endurance. In Antarctic Winter 2, a rare occurrence of repetition brings home the unbearable tedium, 

We are wrapped in fibreglass,...
We are living in treacle.
We are living in treacle.

The second part of this poem allows one of the rare visitations of other humans in the book: entering the deranged mind of the barely surviving speaker, the sensations of the parents' physicality, which may be hallucinations or memories, are shocking, uncomfortable and ambiguous. And just as there is no way out of the Antarctic in winter, there is no glimmer of escape from the psychological damage: 

The memory of a woman
knots me as she un-knots me.
I am a Gordian bundle of bone and muscle.

In earth's harshest environment, people are ill-adapted both physically,

Cook used the last lime a week ago,
salt beef sunsets are gone.
We are down to a hardtack moon,
the weevil holes of stars-' (Terra Infirma 14)

and mentally, 

Out there the suicide principle sits-
he has dropped his long line of hooks
through a hole in the ice and will wait.' (Terra Infirma 8)

So compressed is the imagery of these glistening, dark gems of language, they seem to mirror the inner and outer landscapes few of us would choose to visit, yet there is a healing catharsis in the razor-sharp honesty about life on the edge. And there are also glimpses of redemptive warmth in the affectionate, almost humorous descriptions of animals who struggle to survive:

can you hear him
singing his way to the surface?

Now he is out
a bag of seal
lying in a pool of himself. (Terra Infirma 25). 

Or the penguins, 

Fish-plump and oily they come,
peeling the sea-ice distance-
heads bowed, each foot
shackled to the press-gang dark. (Terra Infirma 19)

In fact, it seems any sense of redemption in The Hollow Bone is brought by animal messengers. The poetry makes no bones about its broad search for spirit in a world where '...the weight of church/drains away-' (The Dream Master).  In Christmas, a wintry walk with a silent companion is made to escape 'the absence of god', and the sacred is found in 

the whiteness of hares,
grouse flushed up,
a dipper working his wintry patch.

References to religion and spiritual paths are throughout the book, often in the titles eg Pilgrim, the Shaman Speaks, The Cathedrals are Sinking, and of course the book's title referring to a shamanic discipline of consciousness. But no religion offers comfort: 

This is not a god
of consolation, (The Shaman Speaks)

Buddhist. Activist for twenty years-
she stepped out into busy traffic,
mind on the next best thing. (A Kind of Passing)

It was a cold
Presbyterian morning.
In the torch-lit rafters
row upon row
of wintering butterflies,
like iron filings
to some distant north. (Soulcraft)

As a mature student, Marriott was guided to read Heidegger, and he did, and read about how shamanism has become an artistic practise in the modern world: in poetry perhaps first and most famously through Rilke. Altered states, dreaming both awake and asleep, participating in other forms of consciousness, and a profound engagement with death, are some of the strands of this area of artistic endeavour evident in this collection. There is a bow to the mother of all shamans and gods: The Cathedrals are Sinking describes the work of trying 'to shore the walls of Winchester up-' as the great church crumbles into the flooded earth. It ends with a questions that has no question mark:

or is it simply
that the wet earth
is rising up -
shunned goddess
of cave and fen
reclaiming - without malice -
what was hers
all along.

The last two poems of the collection make a significant and well-placed ending. The title poem, The Hollow Bone, offers haiku-like tributes to birds and animals: 

Each forward movement an age -
the eyes' fixed bayonet. (Heron) 

These exquisite distillations of wildness remind me a little of Kathy Tower's more domestic soul medicine in Remedies. Marriott's final poem, The Dream Master, with its dream-like irresolution, suggests our models for a soul-life need at the very least updating:

music for a gramophone
cold-pressed for another age

 - a line that could well be applied to human's relationship with the living earth today. But there is no polemic in this book: it exists to replenish the soul. I'm thirsty for more of this kind of poetry: work that has earned its authority through living with open eyes. Its courage is reminiscent in some ways of Adrienne Rich's iconic Diving into the Wreck. One doesn't have to choose to spend winters in the Antarctic - that is both real and a metaphor for the perilous world we all live in. There is no hope offered here except in the courage of utterance.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Review of Artemis, the People's Priestess by Dilys Wood

I felt very honoured by this thoughtful and appreciative review - and it's great to know it makes readers laugh out loud!

Review of Artemis, the People's Priestess by Dilys Wood, ARTEMISpoetry, Iss 19, Nov 2017

Myth now spells freedom. Were there times when writers dare not meddle? Now myth is freely re-shaped to focus on key contemporary issues, while serving as a means of escape from directly confessional poetry. Cora Greenhill’s Artemis, The People’s Priestess evokes a modern ‘goddess’ – Diana, ‘The People’s Princess’. This may be adventitious, but this lively book-length verse drama pivots on the role of woman, explored in a way that’s both many-layered and ‘no holds barred’, with particular attention to women who refuse to conform, who have ambiguous (not always hostile) attitudes to sex and tradition, who are perhaps, ultimately, tradition-makers. The emphasis is on flesh and blood employing modern vernacular. Characters include Artemis, tom-boy and rebel, her more conformist twin, Apollo, Kallisto, a tragic female figure, and Maya (Earth), who keeps the substructure firmly in view while others lose themselves in aspects of the superstructure – rituals, art, meddling in politics. There’s nothing diagrammatic about either plot, characters, or the rich Cretan setting (well-known to Greenhill). The debate around woman’s role could have been thin and schematic with the thrust towards easy victory for Artemis the rebel – it isn’t. The background of ancient mores (clothes, make-up, rituals, based, it seems, on wide research) gives colour. The power and beauty of nature is a sub-theme: “massive / olive trunks threw purple lines / across the dappled tracks. // ‘Look at that mountain!’ I whispered, / pointing at a profile chalked onto blue” (Arrival). The plot is deliberately labyrinthine and this matches the handling of ideas. These are juggled, kept in the air: no preaching here. Ultimately, the protagonists vanish into the future with their questions. A fine achievement and enjoyable read with ample laugh-out-loud, edgy humour.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Rave Review of Artemis, The People's Priestess, by Rosie Jackson

This fabulous review is published in Tears in the Fence in February 2018. Thanks to Rosie Jackson and to David Caddy for commissioning it.

Artemis: The People’s Priestess by Cora Greenhill
(Three Drops Press, 2017, £8)

In the present climate of fraught sexual politics, where years of backlash against feminism are finally having some kind of day of reckoning as male privileges and abuse of power are being called to account (in the film industry and elsewhere), a verse drama which takes us back to the very beginnings of patriarchy – and an evocative reminder of all it lost and subdued – could not be more timely. Yet Cora Greenhill’s long poem never surrenders to mere polemics or abstract feminist thesis; this is a vivid, dramatized exploration of what it means, and has meant for centuries, to inhabit a male or female psyche, and the lasting cultural effects of both, ever since Greek mythology first represented our gendered identity in its various gods and goddesses, and told of the love and warfare between them. You need only look at the full title of Artemis: The People’s Priestess, to know this is going to be a deft blending of classical myth with contemporary reference. Artemis, goddess of hunting in Greek mythology, became Diana to the Romans – hence the jump to Diana, the people’s princess, sliding into the people’s priestess. This typifies the treat of irreverence, irony, subversion, wit, and an artful blending of ancient and contemporary, which run throughout the poem. 

The drama begins with a Prelude in 1450 BC, when a volcano on Mount Thera lays waste the island of Crete, destroys fleets and leaves the populace more open than ever to the controlling powers of religion. Born that night of a union between Leto and Zeus, the twins Artemis and Apollo come to represent the split between matriarchy and patriarchy, the (elder) female strong but enabling the man’s strength, the boy weak, but taken care of by his twin sister, their growth less a complete split than a complicated co-dependency:

I wouldn’t let go of him, so he survived
and wouldn’t let go of me. Original
co-dependency. Start and end of story. 
Could neither split nor live in harmony.

Artemis becomes goddess of the wild, of remote, lonely places – Aeschylus called her ‘lady of the wild mountains,’  - and Greenhill captures in a brilliant, unromanticised way, her passion for birds, animals, the untamed outdoors, dance, freedom of movement, foraged food, sensuality, fertility. Where Artemis is mythology’s ‘arch-outsider’, beyond the rule of man-made law, ‘all she ever cared about was feathered or furred,’ her brother Apollo, by contrast, is elevated to the god of civilisation, of harmony, proportion, transcendence, music, living by the rules he has invented to suit himself, - ‘There’s no place now for a woman without a man.’ This is a a superficial and destructive order in his sister’s eyes, easily degenerating into war, the abuse and rape of women, not inherently civilised at all. Thus their perennial conflict and some of the most telling lines come from the siblings’ descriptions of themselves and each other, each aware they are the other’s shadow, the edge of their identity, constantly at odds in their values. ‘You’re hunted, sister, not hunter now. Your subversive teaching is a threat.’ In their ‘last sibling spat’, Apollo, who admits he ‘Bigged up my brilliance…. I never did get mystery…’ asks: 

What exactly was my original sin? Being a BOY?
Or going with those who recognised my worth? 

And Artemis puts down Apollo for his not knowing the less visible way, the road less travelled.  

Of course you’d have been lost!
That’s the point. Don’t you get it yet?
To be lost in love would have made you a man – 
Following the labyrinth’s way, losing yourself to be found.

Indeed, it is their never ending spat, still going on in our culture now, which underlines the power of this work as a feminist epic, a kind of poetic allegory, huge in its ambition and reach, and that is how it lingers in the mind and imagination long after its ending. 

Thanks to many clever contemporary references, the story is constantly pulled into our own day in other ways too: a satire of diplomacy in the Knossos council; a critique of modern farming methods and carnivores; a warning of climate change; an attack on relying only on charity and handouts; men pursuing profit rather than sustainability – ‘they are harming/the balance of our land with all their farming.’; men reckless with their own seed too; and dire Handmaid’s Tale warnings of the punishment facing girls who don’t toe the line ‘Your little girls will be rounded up like rabbits,/ cured of their strange notions and uncouth habits.’

Perhaps all poems can only come from the highly specific combination of personal and cultural factors that go into their making, but this strikes me as conspicuously the case with Artemis. Cora Greenhill had English parents, but grew up in rural Ulster, where she felt to be on the edge of a culture. Like me, she studied literature at Warwick University in the heady days of Germaine Greer’s teaching there, and could hardly avoid the lasting influence of Greer’s powerful and unique brand of feminism. Then she taught in Nigeria and lived and worked in Crete, whose history of shamanic, pre-patriarchal ‘Minoan’ society became inspirational. Add to this twenty years of practising and teaching Gabrielle Roth’s 5 Rhythms dancework, marriage, motherhood, travel, a home in Crete as well as Sheffield, combined with writing, art, theatre, and the developing of her own distinct poetic voice in The Point of Waking (Oversteps, 2013) and Far from Kind (Pindrop Press, 2016), and it’s hard not to see Artemis as the happy, even inevitable, fruition of these various strands of experience and intellectual history in Greenhill’s rich creative life. 

If the feminist darts come thick and fast - 

You see, they just made things up
to create male supremacy –
‘s how they invented so-called history.
Wait ‘n’ I’ll put the records straight.

they also reveal the possibility of a different way, less visible than the linear and logical – wild, mysterious. They leave me with a renewed desire to learn more about matriarchal culture and the exact origins of patriarchy, so I’m now dusting off my old copy of Ann Baring and Jules Cashford’s wonderful study The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image (1991), which Greenhill quotes as one of her seminal texts. Is it true, for example, that when the huntress women removed their boobs, it was not for ease of shooting arrows, but to reduce their market value in slavery?  

Personally, I found the rhyming couplet contributions of the chorus (priestesses) and some of the other characters – Kallisto, Daphne, Hyacinthos, the Greek traders – less compelling than the dialogues and monologues of Artemis and Apollo, as this is so vividly and memorably their story, with all it has come to embody and represent in layers of mythology around gender and the psyche ever since. (Though, of course, everything might be transformed when the work’s in performance rather than being read on the page, and I would have loved to see the production in Sheffield at Off the Shelf’s Festival of Words, 21 October 2017).

Nevertheless, this is a formidable achievement, especially in a poetic culture where the long poem has often been considered a problematic genre for women writers, its roots in epic traditionally making it (despite works like Aurora Leigh) a predominantly male form. How wonderful, then, to have a long poem by a woman which not only holds it own, but radically addresses some of the very questions which have locked us inside unhelpful notions of gender and power imbalance for far too long.  In Artemis’ last words -

a labyrinth will always leave 
its ghostly pathway for those
who know how to walk between the worlds. 

Amen to that. 

Rosie Jackson 

For Notes on Contributors

Rosie Jackson left a successful academic career at the University of East Anglia and elsewhere to pursue a creative writing life. Her poems The Light Box (Cultured Llama) and her memoir The Glass Mother (Unthank Books) came out in 2016. In 2017 she won 1st prize in the Stanley Spencer poetry competition and 3rd Prize in the Hippocrates. She is a Hawthornden fellow. 

Review of

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
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


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.