Winter Born, Sarah Stutt
Poetry Salzburg, 2017 £5 (+ £1 p&p)
Such sweet sorrow…
Why do I breathe a sigh of relief when I encounter sadness in poetry? Perhaps because it’s so often hidden in life? We all feel it. Is poetry a place we can actually acknowledge and discuss it…?
There is sadness in these poems: I find I’m nothing but grateful. Sarah Stutt manages to encompass nature, myth, the whole world in her work. But in ‘Exile’ she talks of ‘churches of grief-grey stone, / skies so low you can taste them, / river-mud, and air so damp and cold / it fills your lungs with ice’. She’s describing a physical place but also – to my mind – sorrow. (‘I can see for miles up here, / just not far enough to make out / the imprint we left on the beach....’)
The poems often touch on grief. ‘Survival’ ends: ‘I will never get used to this scrupulous silence, / amplifying each and every hour you are gone.’ The poems are very physical: there are births here too, and bloody battles. In ‘Night Flight’, ‘The needle of his compass quivers as he weaves / in and out of the rocks and reefs in this sea of pitch’. And in ‘Homing’:
You always wanted to reach the very edge of things –
pristine horizons, perfect solitude, levity, thirst.
In ‘All Hallows’ Eve’, in ‘The Four Seasons’, ‘the instruments go quiet one by one, / a heart too full, too long, yellows and dies’, while in ‘Regret’
The star catches her unawares
and flits into her mouth.
She tries to cough it out
but its barbed edges
hook inside her throat [ ... ]
Something momentous passes in ‘Gravity’, as the paediatrician ‘opens the window so stories, / memories, expectations can all escape. / The rain gathers pace and nobody speaks.’ We aren’t given details, but sorrow is there, palpably, throughout the work – in ‘splinters of grief’ (‘The Pilgrim Window’).
Winter Born is a full, rich collection. And each poem gives ample food for thought: nourishment.