I was delighted to be asked to review What the Owl Taught Me, the latest poetry collection from Annest Gwilym. It is broadly based on the idea of a bestiary (a treatise on various kinds of animal, especially a medieval work with a moralizing tone). Here there are beautifully written, closely observed poems about animals living, extinct and imaginary, in all the moods that nature shows us.
These poems are full of vivid imagery e.g. great crested newts are described as 'little stegosaurus', the echolocation of pipistrelle bats as 'flittermice click songflights' and a grey heron as 'grey gauntness with a stalking walk'.
Nature is not all sweet and pretty and this collection doesn't shy away from the dark side, including The Nightmare Bird which is described as: "Gunmetal-feathered, earthquake-eyed, / ice-pick taloned". The nightmare bird is an imaginary creature, as is The Blackheart Malatrix, though I had to do a quick internet search on that, as it sounds so convincingly like the name of some obscure moth species! The malatrix comes across as quite endearing:
"[I] walk in and out of your dreams colour them magenta
insert my proboscis into the tired hearts of petunias"
The poetry here is consistently lyrical, which makes the poems that deal with issues all the more powerful. The Last Woolly Mammoth is a poignant remembrance of a lost species and is followed in the collection by The First Mammophant, which imagines the first successful reintroduction into the wild of a recreated mammoth born from a host elephant's womb (this is a real possibility, see this article). She Waits, about a vixen waiting for her partner to return makes a stronger point against fox hunting than any number of political polemics.
This is a beautifully written collection of nature poetry that will stay in the reader's mind long after reading and will repay repeated reading.
Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review.