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

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