Tuesday, 16 May 2006

Alice Oswald, Woods etc. (Faber, 2005)


There's some great poetry around these days. I am not going to review Seamus Heaney's District and Circle. He has said that he feels like an over-ploughed field, so my own words would do nothing to help that. There are very learned reviews elsewhere doing better jobs than I could. I read District and Circle on Easter Sunday morning as the sun shone full on my face. It is a beautiful collection and was like listening to a childhood relative use words I had long forgotten.

Alice Oswald's third collection of poetry is entitled Woods etc. and is a stunning work. Her second volume, Dart, made her a well-known figure, with a long single poem following a river. These poems are about what she sees around her in her home in Devon, the elemental images of the earth, the moon, water, stones. Such things. Her ancestor is very definitely Ted Hughes, but they are very different. There is something less physically robust about them and at the same time they are more physically sensitive. I hardly know which poem to reproduce here, each time I read it I want to put a different one down here. This poem is the title poem in the collection, 'Woods etc.':

footfall, which is a means so steady
and in small sections wanders through the mind
unnoticed, because it beats constantly,
sweeping together the loose tacks of sound

I remember walking once into increasing
woods, my hearing like a widening wound.
first your voice and then the rustling ceasing.
the last glow of rain dead in the ground

that my feet kept time with the sun's imaginary
changing position, hoping it would rise
suddenly from scattered parts of my body
into the upturned apses of my eyes.

no clearing in that quiet, no change at all.
in my throat the little mercury line
that regulates my speech began to fall
rapidly the endless length of my spine.

4 comments:

hesitant hack said...

I was at the Heaney reading here last night - good, but I felt he played to the gallery too much, in terms of giving the American audience the Heaney package they expected, complete with constant mentions of the troubes and old Irish ways, etc.

I have to say I wasn't blown away by D&C, but I've only read it once. Often with me, Heaney makes his impact on the second or third encounter with one of his poems, and then it may stick with me.

You around? IM?

darragh said...

Hey, miglior acque, when will you be reviewing Matthew Pearl's The Poe Shadow?

Miglior acque said...

Actually I hadn't seen he had published another. Yeah, I'll have a read, and if it's any good it'll get a review. You read it?

darragh said...

No, I'm waiting for your review!

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