Light Makes It Easy, Rosie JacksonThe jacket has a band of white at top and bottom. In these first the title and then the author's name appear centred in fairly large black letters. The rest of the jacket is a full colour painting, fairly abstract and slightly Dali-esque with odd shapes and wriggly bits placed here and there. But over all it gives the impression of a beach, with a thin line of blue sea at the top, cloud in a pinkish sky, a huge expanse of sandy yellow and in the foreground shapes that could be towels or chairs. A small grey tree. No people.

Indigo Dreams, 2021    £6.00

Soul searching

Halfway through her first poem (‘Lockdown as a Kind of Pilgrimage’) Rosie Jackson poses the question, ‘How can a time of suffering feel so holy?’ During the dark days of the last lockdown, I found comfort in reading this pamphlet, not least because of its constant awareness of light, both literal and metaphorical. Quite a surprise to my rather down-to-earth, wary-of-religion self.

Jackson is a perceptive observer. Her searching intelligence roams far and wide in time, place and point of interest, but stays consistent in the way she notices, reels in and lands her catch — some expression of soul. ‘Under Every No’, a wide-ranging yet cohesive poem, moves from statistics of lockdown deaths to swallows. There’s an exchange with a partner, a mention of Pandora’s jar and ostriches on the way. It ends, ‘How, after all, / would we know the exhilaration of their return / if swallows did not abandon us?’

Jackson’s search for understanding involves much questioning of the self and unpicking of messy, knotty life experience in flowing, stream-of-consciousness thought processes. Often she writes in the second person ‘you’, as one part of the self addresses another. Take ‘In Which I Ask Forgiveness of My Body’, which starts: ‘Dear body, I am trying so hard to love you / even as you lose your beauty.’ Or the title poem, ’Light Makes Things Easy’, in which the poet tells herself, as if speaking kindly and wisely to a friend, ‘You know now you are mortal. Your clutter is so much / punctuation. How clear the light makes things.’

The poet is always open to beauty, wherever it appears: a young girl riding a horse, a black cap or Four-Spotted-Furrow-Bee, alliums, horned poppy, iris. She seeks the soul’s take also on more apparently unpromising situations such as the ‘Groundhog Day’ experience of lockdown life.

And in ‘Wayside’, her compassion extends to ‘ants, flies, nameless black things,’ who are ‘hungry, as we all are, for nectar.’ It is ugliness that lets us appreciate beauty, the poet seems to say, darkness that enhances light, and death that reminds us to practise love.

Chrissy Banks