There are so many striking aspects about this close it’s hard to know where to begin. One strong feature is the detail and clarity. A hush in my step is a good example – the way the narrator’s boots ‘squeak among quiet things’ such as ‘skylarks, lizards, mice sleeping in fields’. Likewise, in A glass of water, we are given a scene where ‘Bats are flying among the roses,/a snail pops its head out of its spiral-shell/and the trees are wind-rush notes of water’. Linda Rose Parkes’ use of language, as befits an artist, is rich in sensory details; the reader can both see and hear the tide ‘dark/and close, its deep mouth sucking the harbour steps’ (Going like the clappers). One of the most moving and unusual poems is Cow at duskwhere the mooing of cattle is not only sound but also shadow and a ‘fretting for light when light is missing.’
An intriguing, recurrent image in this collection is that of the door. It is the title of the very first poem The door sings its welcome. Here it is the kind of door ‘that trickles honey/in the light/and says come in/twice at least’. The door next to it may be grey and cracked but this one is ‘a honeycomb/a promise’. Symbolic then, a ‘portal’ (Wriggling, crouching), although the way through is hard and the door tight ‘on its hinges’.
Colour and light are significant motifs in this close, representing beauty but also the downside of life when those who set out with some hope end by ‘fleeing to nowhere in a mess of blue’ while others who had ‘the light before them’ end as nothing but ghosts ‘swimming for their lives’. (A clotted blue of good intention).
As previously said, there is much to enjoy in this collection. An aspect that most appeals to me is the way Linda Rose Parkes mixes myth, fairy tale, song, rhyme and narrative. Sometimes the allusions are subtle. In A little crime that lives we are told of a mysterious ‘she’ who is ‘small-boned as Goldilocks’ and the ‘crime’ is the theft of her ‘good girl crown’ which adorned ‘her lovely tresses’. A lost shoe takes the image of ill-fitting footwear and extends it into a metaphor for spirituality, a soul that is forced to ‘limp/towards the hope of a better/when one foot is shorn/of a glass slipper.’ All dressed up in her sea-green bow is delightful to read, musical and enchanting with echoes of Elizabethan songs and The Owl and the Pussy Cat and, one of my favourites in this selection, Exuberances: an assay, is witty and innovative in its associations, rhymes, musicality and form.
Darker moods and attitudes feature in this close and there is negativity, secrecy, absence and death. The figure who runs in her nightdress through the dark is ‘thin as air’ and ‘the cold blows through’, the narrator who drifts towards her has not come to light her way home with a lamp nor strew ‘luminous petals’ on the path. Late night music overheard from a neighbouring house is the moment ‘the dead slip in’ – the same dead who yearn for the comfort of everyday things but who end with empty hands reaching out for ‘a cup of tarnished sunlight.’ (A glass of water).
This is a beautiful collection and one I’d strongly recommend. What I am left with, most of all, is an impression of salvation, a feeling of hope, a great deal of love. If you only have chance to read a few poems in this close then immerse yourself in the final half a dozen, the poignancy of them, their tenderness. SLQ
'Patrick B. Osada lives in Berkshire – and I was born and bred in Berkshire...and as many poems in his new collection How The Light Gets In (Dempsey & Windle, £9) have their roots in Berkshire, this book comes into my hands already drenched in reviewer bias. The Royal County is rightly symbolized by the Oak and Hart, and these poems are equally dignified and animate, full of the tension between stillness and movement.
These lines from Warfield Visitor hint at what I mean; describing a Red Kite…
“Till, with a flick of his forked tail / he caught the breeze to head north-west. / Like nylon kites above Larks Hill, / this bird is tethered to its home: / a pull, Like Ariadne’s thread, / will draw him back to Beacon Hill / and Cowleaze Wood in distant Bucks.”
I like the “distant Bucks” - a good handful of miles across the Thames beyond the Alfredian Burghs where the damned Mercians live...as any true Berkshire-Wessex folk will tell you. And that’s the thing, this is that rarity these days – a book of poems that, in the main, concentrate on a locality; not just its flora and fauna but also change. Here is the conclusion of Making Hay, about the 65 acre solar farm at Pingewood, Berks;
They promise they will seed a meadow here
where sheep can safely graze for thirty years,
now acres of dark windows face the sky
and on each frame a glassy panel’s ‘live’.
So, new breed farming clearly has begun
to turn a profit harvesting the sun.
This is poetry in the tradition of John Clare, responding not just to the natural environment, but also to how it is changing. Sadly, it may have a greater impact on future readers, who may reflect upon this poetry as representing a requiem for rural England. I hope that I’m wrong. It is a good read – a refreshing landscape in a gallery full of portraits…
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