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Embrace, Petra VergunstThe jacket is a photograph of a thin path running through tall green woods. No people. One third of the way down there is a pale green band and this holds the title (Embrace) in large brown lower case letters. Below this there is the author's name very much smaller. That's all.

Lulu Publishing, 2017  £8.00

A book of one’s own

Years ago I read a book which, at the time, stunned me. This was Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Estes Pinkola. (It was one of those moments when the right book lands in your lap at the right moment.) Anyway, I thought back to that book more than once when reading Petra Vergunst’s Embrace. It was something about the writing’s bare-faced, unashamed intensity:

I ask you
see me for who I am
meet me
as I am

Another echo, for me, was also there in the fairy-tale elements—here, in a frightening story I think passed down by mothers:

Sitting on a chopped rowan tree, an old
woman
offers her hand
firms up her grip, feels the flesh on their
bones
draws them into the ruined house

It says on the back cover that ‘In Embrace, Petra Vergunst investigates our relationship with woodlands’ and furthermore:

Shaped as a conversation between those woodlands and her fictional self, the narrative proposes a deep, embodied connection with the natural world that in turn generates an earthy sense of belonging.

This long poem won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Clearly it is Petra Vergunst’s—(and ‘Lulu Publishing’ means self publishing...). That integrity I liked. (And I also thought how sometimes having so many ‘rules’ around the writing—and publishing—of poetry can risk making us feel hemmed in if we’re not careful. The pressure to conform, to produce work that’s ironic, say, or ‘clever’ in a fashionable, familiar way….)

My sense reading Embrace is that it is precisely as its author wanted it—and that fact itself impressed me. It has its own spirit, and its own breakthroughs. Plus, where can we be ourselves if not in a book of our own?

When our leaves tremble and when they drop
when time traces its lace
our arms interlock, we spin an eight
we write our earth story, we write our place

Charlotte Gann