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Purple wash cover with row of white painted trees patterning the bottomThe Curfew Bell, Karen Jane Cannon

Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2021       £6.00

Scars on bleak landscapes

Karen Jane Cannon offers us the tale of a premature baby’s arrival in the landscape and presence of ruined mining works at Leadhills. It’s this backdrop and contrast I’ve focused on — taking my review title from her poem ‘Danger Signs’ — while lambs, as a motif, recur throughout the poems, emphasising the innocence of the young.

Given that my great grandfather worked at the Carsphairn leadworks and was also a shepherd, The Curfew Bell connected with me immediately. The balance between hope and adversity threads through these poems.

‘The Curfew Bell’, the title poem, draws us into the crisis day. As an ambulance drives the expectant mother through the hills, the stanzas move through her increasing fear and pain. The curfew bell, which clanged to warn of mining disasters and lost children, works well as a metaphor for the siren and the sense of woe. The hills are ‘belly curves’ and ‘gas and air become low snow clouds’.

Eostre, the Easter Goddess, releases her pet hare in the poem ‘Lepus’. It’s an animal linked to eggs, hinting at a connection to the unborn infant. Dark portents prepare us for the hare’s sticky end on the road when it

disappeared under the chassis
the turn on a wheel

However, ‘it didn’t happen’. The creature leaps for safety, ‘taking spring with it’. We feel the mixed emotion of the prospective parents as they manage potential outcomes.

The final piece ‘Top of the World’ is a song of praise and resolution. Lambs suckle happily, the baby ‘cries all the way’ home and all is well with their world. We sigh with relief.

Including a rich, deft prose poem ‘421 Words for…’, Karen Jane Cannon’s pamphlet offers a range of landscapes — fear, danger, hope and rejoicing.

Maggie Mackay

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