Self-portrait as Ornithologist, Karen Lloyd

Wayleave Press, 2020    £5.00

Occupying the boundary

Karen Lloyd loves birds: it’s right there in her title. And with her keen eye and her desire to do more than describe, she invites the reader to enter the space where human interaction and the natural world meet. In the first poem, ‘Robin’, she asks the bird: ‘Tell me, where does the boundary between us lie’?

She widens her scope too, veering away from birds in a number of poems — though they can still be seen in cameo roles. I liked the strong beginning of ‘Sycamore’, where the tree grabs the reader by the shoulders and shakes off the usual clichés. This tree will not be taken for granted. ‘Don’t talk to me / of wafting in the breeze / the rustle of leaves’. And so we pay attention to a rhythmic rant on the attributes and sometimes opposing roles that trees display during their lifetimes:

silent brazen

I leave that poem with water on my mind. Then turn the page to ‘Pond Frogs, Lake Prespa’ which has the narrative drive of a storm, the work still occupying that boundary-territory between nature and humans. So, Karen Lloyd gives us ‘amphibian desperados’; ‘a car wreck of a frog’; ‘anti-song’; sex, and more rain. It’s exhausting.

And then she lets rip:

Mind, I would kiss one; I would.
I would fasten my lips to his if only
it would lead to blessed sleep.

There’s too much water and not enough rest — for either her or us.

The work is timely. It may be pre-pandemic but the precarious chaos of the world is all around. And yet, there’s more: I loved the way her humour kicked in, just when I needed it. In this work, as in nature, some balance is in the end necessary.

Candyce Lange