Following his imprisonment in Reading Gaol in 1895, Oscar Wilde shunned the society that shamed him turning instead to nature, where he found clefts in the rocks where he could hide and secret valleys in whose silence he could weep undisturbed. And so too, us, in these strange society-shunning times of ours, we come to nature; chart a course for the landscape of the exterior, finding it leads straight into the heart of ourselves. We walk hand in hand with poet Mantz Yorke, a scientist with an eye for exactitude, take the usual path into the rich glossary of enchantment he holds for the wykes and wilds of North Yorkshire and the Scottish borderlands, where sunlight sidling into Rackwick after the day’s cloudiness/is picking indifferently among roofless crofts/and the reed-strewn pastures of the solitary farm,/yet holds where the reddish gull-flecked cliffs/curve crumblingly to the strand. And further south we venture to rocky Limeslade Bay and Rhossili, where Byron Beynon’s poems read like incantations to the natural beauty of the Gower peninsula in Swansea. Byron’s observations on the interconnectedness of the human and the wild, culminate in a cottage in Helpston, home of John Clare, a poet who wrote powerfully of nature and was himself no stranger to solitude, withdrawing as Wilde did from the hustling world.
Indeed the hinterlands lead us to the heartlands. From our too often complicated relationship with nature, as poet Chaucer Cameron attests in her poem ‘Still Life’, to our complicated and contradictory relationships with one another. There are no easy conclusions about what life means, Chaucer tells us: The future is on every road and every road a cul de sac. Pippa Little’s poetry advocates for multi-layered sensitivity also, as she navigates the difficult terrain of childhood. We are extensions of our histories, the roots of present-day anxieties can be found there and Pippa expresses the simple longing to be loved that embodies the oft suppressed voice of the inner child.
Poetry by Fred Johnston and Oz Hardwick reflects the fulfillment we find in relationships; addresses who we love and how. How did we pass the days? Galway poet, Fred asks in ‘En Pointe’, With love-making/On a hot balcony floor, ice-spiked horchatas pale as Northern skin;/. The affectionate tone here and in Oz’s ‘Jigsaw’, are a testament to the eternal mystery of those we’ve loved and lived with a long time. Hardwick’s ‘The Love We Make’ ponders the profound love and virtue of nostalgia and in ‘Freudian Slip’ asserts the deeply personal and depersonalized textures of experience in which modern life is coming to dwell: A mountain is a mountain, a cigar is a cigar, and everyone’s a tailor’s dummy waiting naked and headless at the communion rail. Nostalgia is a recurring theme too, in the work of Margaret Royall, whose poetry is imbued with memories of childhood moments of heart-stopping magic in Lincolnshire.
From remembrance to grief, our journey to the interior goes ever deeper. Siobhan Logan’s powerfully reverent linked-poems in tribute to her father are both plaintive and jubilant. Taken from her forthcoming chapbook ‘Tidings’ they explore her father’s final illness and its aftermath, whilst also celebrating the life of a working-class man, a keen dancer, a migrant, a man whose voice was like the sea/when the tide has rolled far out:/a low grumble, a ‘whisht’ caught/in the intricate whorls of a shell/held close to my ear. A man similar to the father remembered by novelist and poet, Nick Browne in ‘The Black Path (Bridgend)’ who knew the kind of thing a/grown man knew, like lines of Shakespeare/Keats and Shelley, where to go to miss the traffic/on the A48, and all the ‘B’ roads to the sea.
At the heart of this selection is an enduring meditation on the interconnectedness between the human and the wild and the complex ways we come to accept ourselves, our world, and the things that happen to both. We move freely and frequently between our interior and exterior realities and it’s perhaps fitting that we end our journey on the brink of an adventure. A poetry road-trip across Europe, northeast Africa, and the Middle East where the sun lowers against Libyan desert hills, a bulbul sings and Theseus battles with the Minotaur in the Cypriot village of Tochni. Marjory Woodfield’s vibrant and colourful poetry invites us to change our clime and mind, to move while standing still and explore the world in verse for the duration it’s closed to us. For now, learning is safer than experience.
Welcome to Issue 42. Safe travels.
Poetry Editor – Abhaile