Soul Land, Natalia Clarke

Matador, 2020    £9.99

Pure and simple

Natalia Clarke’s pamphlet is brimming with adoration and praise for a place she regards as home — Scotland, her Soul Land.

The beauty of this collection lies in its simplicity. Clarke’s work is highly descriptive yet uncomplicated, written in first person perspective and with very few full stops. Instead, the poet chooses to divide much of her work into short stanzas, so that each sentence exists within its own space: the poem works as a sequence of individual thoughts.

The lack of full stops compounds an impression that the poems flow into and out of each other, all merging as if one piece. In this way, the collection can be read as a kind of muttered incantation, so bewitched by her surroundings is the poet.

This constant flow reflects Clarke’s muse, with the land and its impact upon her having no beginning or end, as in ‘The One Constant’:

My one constant, unchangeable place that holds all that is
            good and desired

It calms when the seas rise wild within me

It teaches when my mind is lost to confusion

It embraces when sorrow wraps around my heart

It mops up my plentiful tears

There is much repetition in Clarke’s poetry which adds to its simplicity. By reciting the same words and phrases over and again, the poet creates a rhythm which is predictable and quickly becomes familiar to the reader, as shown in ‘I Know You’ with the stanza openings: ‘I fell in love’, ‘I fell to my knees’, ‘I fell in love’. There is also repetition within the lines, as in ‘The Body Of My Body’: ‘Heaven it is, indeed, it is’ and ‘I am you and you are me’. By this, the poet conveys that she and the land are one and the same.

Soul Land is a collection of devotion, as pure as it is accessible.

Vic Pickup