I've been reading some inspiring new books recently. They help me along with my own writing endeavours and enrich me as a reader, and human. I can't imagine a life without reading...and how diminished it would be.

Kim Moore's The Art of Falling (Seren) was just a joy - a tough, tender book packed with a variety of forms and emotional clout.
The middle section, How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping, is particularly strong. Moore writes of domestic violence and the perils of attachment and entrapment. Every poem in this section takes an oblique, surprising and often redemptive note.
This was a collection I dipped into with glee because the poems give so much to the reader in imagery, music and a generosity of spirit. They are emotionally open, yet also musical and peppered with surprising metaphors ('my heart was a field').
Moore sometimes writes quite long, almost breathless phrases using repetition of clauses that are woven through the text. A Psalm for the Scaffolders, for example, contains the phrase 'a psalm for' 11 times.  (Incidentally, she is a brass teacher and I wonder if the experience of playing long sections of musical notation is reflected in this form)?
Because she is such a deft poet, these clauses are expertly crafted into the body of the poem, making them even stronger pieces of work. Scaffolded if you like with a sort of invisible wiry strength.
This is one of those rare books that I feel I could give to any non-poetry reader with the aim of converting them to poetry's undeniable charms.


Jacqueline Gabbitas' book Small Grass (Stonewood Press) is another collection that does something extraordinary with language. This small and ambitious book takes on the voice of grass in many guises, and is both timeless and particular. As grass is.
The poems wear their biology lightly - there are rhizomes and algae and ice core samples, but they are also quite clearly art in themselves.
This exquisite short poem, Grass eavesdrops at a church window, is worth quoting in its entirety - it just expresses that sense of starchy humming you can almost hear in bright sun when plants are photosynthesising..

'If man would put his ear to this glass
he'd hear my voice - my colossal reed

singing to my stems, my roots, amassing
my flower-heads, broadcasting seeds.'

Another strength is the author's subtle engagement with environmental peril, without becoming didactic. She writes beautifully in the delicate, shifting space between human and nature.


Another author who writes within this territory is Helen McDonald, author of H is for Hawk, a memoir, I suppose, of her time training a goshawk in the time after her father's death. It weaves the story of fellow authorT.H White with personal experience and quite learned academic reference and is sharply self-aware and reflexive with a quality of attention that mirrors the extraordinary hawk eye. I'm planning to write more about it at length later. The descriptions of Mabel, her goshawk, are so fresh and exact -

'...the more I sit with her, the more I marvel at how reptilian she is. The lucency of her pale, round eyes. The waxy yellow skin around her Bakelite-black beak. The way she snakes her small head from side to side to focus on distant objects. Half the time she seems alien as a snake, a thing hammered of metal and scales and glass. But then I see ineffably birdlike things about her, familiar qualities that turn her into something loving and close. She scratches her fluffy chin with one awkward, taloned foot; sneezes when bits of errant down get up her nose. And when I look again, she seems neither bird nor reptile, but a creature shaped by millions of years of evolution for a life she's not yet lived.'

Did you know that the stiff, tiny feather spikes around a hawk's beak and eye are called crines? They have evolved to catch blood so it dries and flakes away. I suppose that is why vulture faces are almost bald..
H is for Hawk is English nature-writing at its very finest. Truly special and worth your time.


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