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