Review of Alison Lock (by Hannah Stone)

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Alison Lock’s third collection, Revealing the Odour of Earth (Calder Valley Poetry, 2017), revisits territory familiar to readers of A Slither of Air and Beyond Wings (both with Indigo Dreams Publishing) – the almost invisible junction between self as woman and self as creature. Her poetry grows out of landscape settings like the narcissi ‘glowing from their travels’. She responds to the scents and shapes of animal and cosmic companions in the fields, waterways and woods of her home ground. In a quasi-animistic manner she engages in dialogue with the moon, a scree, a herd of young bullocks.

This is visceral writing; she captures the precise way lichens clings to stones, and the feeling of nutshells crushed underfoot. For all its focus on rural aspects of nature, this is also intensely human poetry. The poet involves companions in her journeys and invites the reader to join them, leaving spaces for reflection.

Revealing the Odour of Earth is no Arcadian idyll; there are hints of challenges in her themes, too; borders to be navigated against the odds; the cataclysm of the American political scene; risks, dangers. The peat bog refuses to give up its ancient inhabitants. Familiar lexical fields are redrafted to highlight ‘the wing of a grouse … stitched to the tarmac on a weft of bronze plumage.’

A striking feature of the collection is the variety of form. Short instances of open form predominate but are relieved by a villanelle, an octolune, a sonnet and several prose poems. Calder Valley Poetry is associated with the village of Marsden’s newly designated status of Poetry Village. The book is simply presented, in an appropriately green dust jacket. If you enjoy thoughtful, closely observed poetry which takes you beyond the moors of West Yorkshire to more disturbing places, this is for you.

Hannah Stone, November 2017

Leaving Russia – by Dorothy Dickinson

 

You will smooth creases
from sheets, check the cupboards,
the washer, the bed, and again.
You will tug at your feet.
You will say goodbye
to it all: to the koshki,
the babushki, the pigeons dancing.

You will find features stolen
from those you have known
in the faces of strangers
you’ll meet on new streets.
You will be angry
and a little in love.
This is normal.

You will store promises
in your kneecaps and at night,
you will hear them knocking.
Best to leave them be, until
the dust from your journeys
has kissed the tops
of your patellas.

Only then may you wonder
at what you’ve left behind.
Only then may you hold
the past close, breathe in
its hair, and reassure it
like you would a child,
afraid you had gone forever.

 

 

Dorothy is a dreamer, newlywed, and tea lover from Holland, Michigan. She recently completed her MPhil in Literary Translation at Trinity College Dublin, and has previously been published in such journals as The Blue Nib and Banshee.

Last Train – by Eira Needham

 

The caravan was dusty and Mum
scoured all the plates before we ate.
I longed to sprawl in nearby dunes, sheltered
from the wind, then paddle in the surf.

Merging with drizzle we braved
the fairground, hunched in raincoats.
Our King Charlie dog kept dry, goggle eyes
peering out of Mum’s large shopping bag.

A treat was eating at the Lobster Pot Cafe,
with fishing net decor. Our window seats
overlooked boats undulating in the harbour;
plates piled with vinegar doused plaice and chips.

Slumped in lumpy beds, gas lights flickering
we listened to the hired radio, cheering
when Lonnie Donegan and his Skiffle Group sang –
Last train to San Fernando, last train to San Fernando.

Clowning, Dad joined in with falsetto voice –
If you miss this one, you’ll never get another one
Bee-dee-bee-dee-boom-boom to San Fernando.
We laughed, gasping into our pillows.

Today those familiar strains blast out
from You-tube. Forty years later they divorced.
Now both have travelled on in separate seats,
aboard their last train.

 

 

 

Eira Needham is a retired teacher from Birmingham UK. Her poetry has been published in print and online. Some of her recent and forthcoming publications are in Black Poppy Review, Autumn Sky Poetry, Poetry Pacific and The Linnet’s Wings. She has also been Featured Writer in WestWard Quarterly.

Editorial – Anyone Can Cook

Ever seen the Pixar film Ratatouille? The tale of Remy, the rat who is a dab hand with haute cuisine. His journey to owning his own restaurant underpins the plot, but then there is Anton Ego, the cynical restaurant critic who also has his own journey of redemption.

See, Remy’s idol was the wildly popular (and deceased) chef Auguste Gusteau, whose motto was… Anyone Can Cook. This drove Monsieur Ego to distraction; he misinterpreted what Gusteau meant. He thought it was being suggested that Everybody Can Cook, which he believed was patently not the case. Only at the film’s end does the penny drop in his mind. What the old chef meant was that it does not matter who (or what, in Remy’s case) you are. Your gender, race, social class, privilege, education…. Doesn’t matter. Wherever you come from…. Anyone Can Cook.

Poetry is inclusive. Anyone Can Write Poetry. It is not the preserve of the academic, of the white Anglo-Saxon, or of the middle classes. The subject of elitism (and its twin, accessibility) is worthy of an editorial in its own right, which I may come back to another time. Here, let’s just assume that Gusteau was right.

However, that does not imply that Everyone Can Write Poetry. There is a crucial distinction here that often gets muddied. I sometimes hear it said that Poetry is for everyone and whilst that is certainly correct in terms of the enjoyment and appreciation of poetry, to suggest that everyone can write it is clearly incorrect. 

I can’t play the guitar. I could learn. It would take practice, and time. I’d need to listen to people who can play it as part of that learning process. I could perhaps achieve a basic level of competence with enough hard work, but I doubt I would ever be a John Williams or an Eric Clapton. Alongside the work and practice I doubt I have the facility with music, the spark of talent that differentiates the competent and the gifted.

So, three cheers for inclusivity in poetry. But let’s also tread the line between anyone and everyone carefully. Celebrate good writing without being emotionally incontinent. There is a place for objectivity.

 

 

Hungry Ghost – by M. Stone

 

Liver-spotted hands make a lie
of my age. I stay tucked
under the eaves, nun-chaste,
content with a porch rocker
and endless needlepoint.

You cannot fathom
how my awkward lips once moved
against a strange mouth,
how my hips stirred
in a singular dance, pinned
beneath the body of another.

You cannot see it now
when I wear the years like a shroud,
when I at last grasp the difference between

alone/lonely
want/need

but long ago I was like you,
lingering in the street at sunset

waiting on some passerby in search
of a discard to pause and say
“We have to stop meeting this way”

before snatching me up
and carrying me home,
posing my hapless limbs
into a figure he could use.

 

 

 

 

M. Stone is a bookworm, birdwatcher, and stargazer who writes poetry while living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in San Pedro River Review, SOFTBLOW, Calamus Journal, and numerous other print and online journals. She can be reached here.

The Week You Were Gone – by Devon Balwit

 

Just me and the dog, you away, the long day
anticipating later when it might be this way longer.

The house quiet, your CDs tilt in stacks, awaiting
someone to play them. No spillway for griping,

grimness pools then trickles into forced lines.
This would have been me had we not met,

the children tucked back unseen. I enact
our routine, egging myself on, for if not,

how else to do this? I would like to boast
on your return of some brave deed,

but the only brave thing I will have done
is fill the big bed as much as one can.

 

 

 

Devon Balwit writes in Portland, OR. She is a poetry editor for Minute Magazine and has seven chapbooks and a full-length collection out or forthcoming. Her individual poems can be found in Cordite, The Cincinnati Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Fifth Wednesday, The Stillwater Review, Red Earth Review, The Fourth River, The Ekphrastic Review, The Free State Review, Posit, and more.