Sadie Maskery is a poet I first encountered by chance on Twitter, in what feels the dying times of that social media platform, which, though much aligned, has been important for many writers to connect with each other.
Sadie was offering copies of her latest poetry collection, and I accepted eagerly, attracted by the title and the cover art.
Aside from the fact that this isn't as nature themed as I thought it would be given the title, this is an excellent collection of powerful, sometimes angry, sometimes disturbing poems.
Some of the poems are rooted in nature, such as in there is a beach, in which crabs 'infant faces etched into their backs' remind the narrator of her dead child, and the comfort of animals in Pet
It is not people who comfort me
but soft fur and the warmth
of small bodies, simplicity
with no need for question
or answer, just trust.
The benefits of being outdoors crop up in Allotment
about a man who relieves the boredom of work by digging in his
allotment garden and Cubicle whose narrator dreams of 'cool
forests' while enduring a boring job.
Harvest belies expectations of a poem about fruit and abundance by describing a bloody ritual carried out to
ensure a good harvest. This poem also is one of a few in this collection that uses non-standard formatting successfully:
'fear cured by rites of flay / and / burn / and / lash
the sound dis solv ing into sparks / and / ash'
Several poems in this collection are about witches, including the mistreatment of women
accused of witchcraft and the hypocrisy of the church in its attitude to witches. The best poem about witches for me is Magic,
which looks at connections between magic and physics:
Witches can idly turn a bubble
inside out without breaking its surface:
They grasp the universal law
that every atom is all places at once -
Mortality and reincarnation are common themes too, as in Pass On
'Death is just
An adjustment. She is
Still here, in fragments.'
While in Ghost - someone is reborn as a mosquito ('zithers curses with her wings') rather than as the white butterfly that ghosts are sometimes expected to be. My favourite poem in the collection, Suffer the Children, considers reincarnation in the context of a growing world population, looking first at old souls:
souls recycle to the core of us
and some, therefore, are old motes,
suspended, that saw how
henges caught the moon
or patterns became words.
going on to describe the potential problems faced in an overpopulated world with too many new souls
"A peerless population of ego
untethered by accrued wisdom"
And Kind People Will Say furnishes us what seems like a good motto for life
This is your life, not a scoreboard
with crosses where you fail.
This is an excellent collection of intense poems that repay re-reading, but may be best read a few at a time as the mood is often quite dark and could become overwhelming.
Shouting at Crows by Sadie Maskery published (2022) by Alien Buddha Press.