Now the Robin, Hamish Whyte
HappenStance Press, 2018 £5.00
A relaxation of poems
Charmed by the robin on the cover, watching for him from the opening lines (‘Looking Out’), following the life of a garden through the poems, for a while I missed seeing how shapely they are and how much the title poem stands out from the others, because of form.
‘Now the Robin’ is an almost square of words, a ‘writing / to the edge of the page’ with a freedom from punctuation that slows you down as you read. There’s nothing spare. I like the way it’s contained on the page (a freedom of words caught in an invisible box) and how the last line stops short of completing the shape, allowing the eye to linger over ‘everything is green shadow’.
There’s a relaxing stillness in the garden: ‘cross my legs lilt / straw hat doze a bit it’s easy to feel the world’s this garden’. An invocation of the senses adds to the enchantment.
In ‘Treasure Garden’:
with eye patch
a wooden leg
and a rusty
and I’m hooked by the image, by the easy-on-the-eye repeating shape, caught up in the journey to his ‘trove’ of flowers, lulled by an imagined humming.
‘Dominic’s Hens’ opens with another colourful image:
A parcel of grey and black hens
came at my white gate this morning
red combs bobbing —
It’s easy to imagine the clucking and chucking outside the gate (such a relaxing sound if you sit and listen).
‘Hypnagogic’ is relaxation caught in a poem. Yellow poppies catch the eye. So do the closing lines:
I close my eyes again
and see the flowers.
The quiet after a storm brings a sharp clarity (‘8 February, 2016’):
the sun hits the shed door
the damp wood lights up
the drops of rain on the rose branch
are crystal, the fuchsia leaves
are greener, the blackbird’s beak
I search for a half-remembered quotation, fail to find it, only to be reminded of ‘the robin who showed the way’ (Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden), which takes me back to the robin on the cover ...