The Naming of Wings, Becki HawkesThe jacket has a brownish background, featuring a slightly surreal landscape. IN the top half, in the 'sky', there is a huge brown butterfly flying towards the left. The title is centred, just below the middle, in white italic handwriting type font coloured with a kind of rainbow wash. The author's name is centred towards the foot of the jacket in pale pink caps.

SurVision Books, 2022    £7.50


This engaging pamphlet is striking for the sense of movement and fluidity that permeates it. Hawkes has a zest for life – seen for example in ‘Apple lover’, which indeed includes a lover as well as a fondness for apples, and ends: ‘take a bite, take a bite, take a bite’. (That full stop is mine: only five of the twenty poems conclude with one.)

There are poems on dark subjects too and certainly an aliveness to environmental threats but the poet harnesses a momentum that sustains her. In the opening poem, ‘Banquet’, a love of eels is surreally declared:

They have eaten
every single one of me, eaten the little girl
who combed the beach for shells, the shuffling teen
who hid her body from the sun, the cautious crinkled
woman who longed to dive with tigers.

By the end, however, the narrator has morphed into an eel herself while also ‘packing a suitcase, wriggling my torso free / and taking the early train, pouring myself into waves / and waves of surging morning.’

Just the sight and sound of a train can rescue a bleak evening. In ‘Coat weather’, she likes ‘how even the emptiest carriages / feel swift and urgent, how they hurtle / fiercely into darkness.’

Her greatest love, however, is for insects, particularly butterflies, mentioned in over a third of the poems. The title of the pamphlet, in fact, is the closing line of ‘Peacock, Orange Tip, Red Admiral, Holly Blue’, in which no fewer than six other species feature!

The final poem, ‘River run’, confronts the optimism/pessimism conundrum, starting:

But what is this thing in me, that is not like me
at all but shrugs, laughs, says oh well
there will always be rivers

The poem ends with a Skipper butterfly, caught in a rainstorm, a butterfly that knows how

to inch down the stem of the reed, to
[…] say
tell us the worst, then,
wait for the gap
in the sky

That philosophy tell the worst but carry on through whatever gap remains shines throughout this prize-winning, gusto-filled, pamphlet.

Rob Lock