Review: A Landscape with Birds by Beth Brooke

This collection of poems by Beth Brooke is perfectly named. Yes, birds flutter through its pages, but for me the key aspect of the collection is the sense of place. These poems are rooted in the landscape. On an emotional level, these poems examine freedom and release; the intensity of parenting, and the poignancy of what remains once change has happened.

Beth knows her birds: they are beautifully depicted. A jackdaw is a “Parisian punk”, geese fly like “a plough turning the soil”. In one of my favourite poems, she depicts a robin – “martial, disputatious” – but when we share Beth’s tender gaze, we also see the vulnerability of a small bird in a world where “night is always cat-shadow black”.

Beth takes us to many places: an attic room “the right size to be comforting”, a garden in Marrakesh, a ruined chapel in the woods. She notices details – remnants, she creates fantastic images: a power station is “a scab on the horizon”, ravens are “black plastic scraps”. Suddenly we see things slightly differently.

Many of these poems meditate on freedom and release. A son leaves home, a trapped bird longs for “the sky and clean rain”, ashes are set free. There are losses here, but the sense of release makes them beautiful. One poem is explicitly titled _Ploughing, April 2020_ – written in those months of lockdown. I wondered how much lockdown had added to that yearning for release.

Some of the most powerful poems centre on the intense emotions that come with parenting. In _Finding the Wing_, she soothes an “anxious little fist”, at the same time noting the loss of innocence and infancy, and in _Influenza Epidemic 1919_ she writes of parents “preferring their dreams of the lost children” to life itself.

This is a skilled collection of tender poems, full of imagery, rooted in reality. I think you should read it.

A Landscape with Birds by Beth Brooke is available from Beth @BethBrooke8 or from https://www.hedgehogpress.co.uk/product/a-landscape-with-birds-beth-brooke-print-edition/

Ice and flame

By the time the moon rose, its clear light
freezing, like a veil of ice, in that moment, our
passion was the only warm thing there. It burned.
At our first touch, the world itself flared, turned
its gaze on us – seeking out that fierce, hot power
blossoming between us, wild and brave and bright.

For Laura at dVerse, who invites us to take a line from a “kissing” poem, place it vertically, and make a poem from it. She also invited us to use a form – I’ve gone with a sestain, with a rhyme scheme ABCCBA, just because I like it. I chose the line “by freezing passion at its blossoming” from Neil Carpathios’ poem “The Kiss”. If this doesn’t make sense, check out Laura’s explanation over at dVerse.

At the restaurant

We were young, and drunk
on our own loveliness,
on being alive, and by the water,
and the sun shining on the water,
and bright champagne
glittering in the sunlight

and we ate everything –
I don’t remember anything –
but we ate everything,
relishing every mouthful,
the last to leave,
relishing every moment,
and the sun shining on the water.

For Merril at dVerse – a restaurant poem.

In this river of clouds

there are fish of many types –
silver flashes of lightning
deep grey of storms,
rippling, shimmering
shoals of showers –
suddenly there, suddenly gone –

sunlight falls through
green reeds, swaying,
summer rains
dart and dazzle and dance,

and the clouds drift on.

A quadrille for De at dVerse – 44 words, including today’s word – “type”

Inspired by an image on Twitter from @PaulDragonwolf1

August August August

Lazy August lingers by the water –
she loves the lapping of those little waves.
She’s ankle-deep now, watching
the setting sun behind the pier.
Pink shouldered, red nosed August
hands over ninety-nines and fresh fried donuts,
slips you a fiver when your mum’s not looking,
smells of vanilla, cigarettes and cider.

Patient August, sitting the car,
winding the windows down, she’s sweating,
endlessly queuing, opening crisps, pouring out coffee
from a tartan flask. She’s cracking jokes,
leading a sing-song, hot thighs sticking
to the plastic seat. Languid August
lets you run amok. She doesn’t care
your shoes are wet, your T-shirt ruined –
just grab some plasters and a wedge of cake
and head on out again –

Generous August, gathering blackberries
in a spare plastic bag, eating them
absent-mindedly, fingers stained purple –
lauging August, kiss-me-quick and squeeze-me-slow,
hiring a deck-chair, cutting sandwiches –
cheese or ham? – throwing in crisps and pop –

and under that creased skirt,
the scratch of stubbled fields,
a young fox creeping through the hedge, a hare
running and leaping wild beneath
a golden moon.

An August poem for Sanaa at dVerse