The Glower of the Sun, Edwin Stockdale
Red Squirrel Press, 2019 £6
Stark and sensational
What I admire about Edwin Stockdale’s poetry is his ability to convey an image or feeling so succinctly. In this way, the poet draws attention to the senses of the reader, which enhances the transportive effect of the works included in The Glower of the Sun.
There’s not an ounce of spare flesh on the bones of Stockdale’s form. He writes sparingly about what is seen, heard, felt, and that is all.
‘Middle Distance’ is a highly sensory poem: ‘I smell a late-flowering rose’, ‘The taste of lavender reminds / me of her baking’, ‘I stand at the window, looking / within and without, touch / the waxed table’. The poet visits the home of his ‘Granny Gill’ and by documenting a series of minute observations through which we smell, taste and touch, we join the poet in remembering his childhood. This skill makes the poetry in this pamphlet feel deeply personal.
In other sections, Stockdale uses the senses to create atmosphere, as in ‘Lung Wood’:
A blackface sheep’s skull coils
like an ammonite.
The pines mutter,
guard their secrets. […]
I disturb a roe deer;
Only the bracken knows
where she will hide.
And in ‘Frozen Panes’:
Hail scrapes her face. Brent geese cluster.
She sees a rowan tree.
She smells eels and oysters.
Sleet falls, melts into the water.
Stockdale has the art of showing and not telling perfected. The imagery is striking and his word choice meticulous, so that he can place the reader precisely into his scene. We feel the harsh isolation, are drawn in so that when we later read ‘She is very thin: / under her ribs her child shifts’ it affects us; we feel desolate.
The simple yet striking sensory observations in The Glower of the Sun are so stark and concise they create an immediacy which imitates the swift flow of the reader’s own thoughts. It makes us feel as if these words are our own, each observation an experience to fear, or to treasure.