En Route, Olivia Walwyn
Templar Poetry, 2018 £6.00
It’s only natural…
By the end of Olivia Walwyn’s En Route, with water present in thirteen of the fifteen poems, I was drenched. I almost had to wring it out by the end of it.
However, despite the (rising) dampness in the work, what leaps out is a feeling of escape from the urban, a drift away towards something more elemental. Possibly, the idea that if it weren’t for some more prosaic reasons, the protagonist would be off elsewhere.
In the opening poem, ‘Erosion’ we see a battle set up between nature and mankind’s work:
we walk down
talking about the shortage
of earth, but when I try
to envisage it
My mind hits concrete
This battling is further exemplified in the poem that follows, ‘Marshlands’, where, despite the apparent irresistible pull of the marshes — with its repetition of ‘I go down to the marshes’ — it feels like a tranquil poem, a moment of calm and opportunity:
If someone undid me
from the river bank, I’d drift away. The stars my chart.
Elsewhere in the pamphlet we see people working with nature and the elements. There’s the dad of ‘My Dad, Swimming’, for example, using the elements, and also trying to bend them to his will:
[…] he’d enter the water
flapping, splashing, making a scene
as if he could warm the water with
his noise and cover up cold with fun
We see something similar in ‘Dry Stone Walls’: ‘Each stone hefted, let to land in place’, and later in the same poem:
if they fell they did not break, but collapsed
into a heap to be re-built, maintained,
the mossy, sun-bleached stones on top
as if to re-recreate the land itself and form
new patterns of protection, growth.
There’s some pleasing symmetry: at the start (in ‘Marshlands’) the poet is tethered to the riverbank, but in the final poem (‘Swim at Weybourne Hope’), the immersion in water is complete; the poet is swimming in the sea, looking back
[…] towards the land.
Between your fingers grains of sand
are spinning onwards
in the waves.
The untethering has happened and it feels good. I wanted to dive in too.