Those other lives, David PunterThe jacket's backing colour is white. There is a thick grey band outlining a rectangle inside this. At top and bottom of this rectangle is the title and the words POEMS - DAVID PUNTER in the same bold thick small caps. in the middle there is another rectangle, occupying most of the jacket. It has a full colour design of two white birds with orange beaks in the middle, heads bent together lovingly. Then two black birds with head adornments in front of the white ones. There is a black-skinningn person behind the birds, and a yellow mountain that could be a volcano, since there is an orange flare design in the sky. The sun is orange with little streaks of white across it.

Palewell Press, 2020  £6.90

Lament at human tragedy

‘Tell the truth, but tell it slant,’ is not the motto David Punter writes by. His poems are unabashed laments, and calls to arms. He is appalled by the world’s horror and injustice. Suffering, pollution and corruption are described with no need for decoding, as in ‘Song of the Island’:

The beach’s tidemark’s strewn with plastic


Here the global circulation,
greed and profit, manufacture,
finds its perfect cemetery
in the island’s silent drowning.

The urgency of the message is crystal clear: one feels the poet has no time to mess around with sugar-coated subtlety. The title poem, ‘Those other fields’, spells out Punter’s sorrow and frustration at the inertia of the human race, which has allowed violence and exploitation to be wrought on the helpless:

Everyone’s writing nature poems. I read
of daffodil, willow-warbler, corn-crake, heartsease, dove,

[… ]

But who will write those other fields, of blood
where starving children retch, and scream, and sob
and desperate mothers slither in the mud
for rice

Punter gives voice to collective despair while at the same time forcing the question: at what point does handwringing become complicity? When will we act? When will we do something?

The fact that the poet includes himself in the collective ‘we’ shows his awareness of the dangers of self-righteous tone. In ‘Dredging’, for example:

[…] we all need dredgers
for our heads, to dip and cut and suck
at the barnacles of prejudice, the fouled

meeting of unworked assumptions,
the oily silt of familial repetition

Punter offers no easy answers. But there’s a glimmer of hope in his final poem, ‘Other Lives’, starting with the suggestion that:

Wondering about those other lives
is the beginning; a small start, a
a flicker of light

Zannah Kearns