Poetry Read #1/23

Carola Luther: On the Way to Jerusalem Farm (140 pages. Carcanet)

Sublime. Restorative. Showing how poetry can bring a fourth dimension to writing: poems that create more space for themselves, within themselves. Poems that slow time down. An enormously generous and contemplative collection.

An example, from On Ghosts:

Yesterday it wasn’t so but today there is sadness

in this sea-city A concavity

like the small cleft that thumbs remember

between the wishbones of birds

Last week I found a washed-up bird Rasool

still as a stopped clock

empty on the inside feathers

stiff with salt

Today a man stands on the promenade

staring out to sea At this hour

if there was work

he’d be there

Some poems – deersuddenly, sheep, losing the swan – which are doing something fantastic in the natural world and in the way the poet interacts with the natural world, invite re-reading after re-reading. It seems to me that Luther prefers to see and contemplate the beauty in the world, but that there are some very real thoughts or events that are simply inescapable: Dawn on Nab Scar, which is ‘doing nature’ beautifully, when it suddenly throws in the question of culpability for the Sharpeville Massacre, in South Africa – “Was I implicated? No, yes, where does it begin, and end?” – before moving back to considerations of the natural world waking up around her. But the intrusive thoughts won’t rest, “...the little birds whistle / in their swept-clean market place as if no more conflict can ever come, // no bombs, no divided Jerusalem; just there in the distance, spring brightening / the greygreen, green. maroon trees reflected in the water.

We can rise above for a while, we can block out a great deal, but in the end, if you are at all sensitive or concerned you will have to think on the horror – and it is a mainly man-made horror.

I can’t recommend this collection too highly.

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