Fordings, Daniel GustafssonThe jacket is half occupied by a photographic image of a grey sea, and the other half white sky, in which the title, in large black caps is centred, with the name of the author in black lowercase (but exactly the same width) just below.

Marble Poetry, 2020  £5.00

Quest and error

I like these mysterious, quiet poems. Lots of smooth, short alliterative stanzas which weave together rural and oceanic imagery. There is much wordplay, too, such as in ‘SAGA’:

Call him Halfdan,
whole-heartedly halfwit,
heedlesssly hell-bent on glory.

It smacks of Don Quixote-like madness. I almost assume Halfdan is riding on a half-starved horse and about to fall off, but for the previous stanzas where he ‘captained an unearthly vessel’, and for the last two lines:

Say that he set sail for bounty;
say that he jumped ship for good.

Other poems in Fordings are equally ambiguous, but with moments which are surprising, and sometimes beautiful. In ‘After’ (a poem I kept returning to) light is described as ‘leafless and leaden’ and ‘dry boughs are dripping with spray’. The last poem, ‘Stepping Stones’, moved me. It is about finding the strength to start again after making many ‘missteps’:

Go back
over the same grounds
again. Making amens
of your missteps, retrace
these ruts to the new.
Though these currents
have altered all,
still this passing place

There is a note of wisdom here. Gustafsson, who lectures in Philosophy, might be saying that an erroneous quest is the only quest available to us. Perhaps we have to value our missteps during whole-heartedly halfwit days.

Nell Prince