Stone the Crows, Dilys Rose

Mariscat Press, 2020    £6.00

Finely crafted, witty observations

This is the perfect medicine for current times. Clever, observational and most of all amusing — a winning mix. The poet covers a broad selection of subjects (a sequence on dresses, a collection on birds, a sprinkling of Scots dialect), all with great skill.  

We hear from a selection of birds, including a ‘Murmuration of Budgies’, ‘Charm of Finches’ and a ‘Wake of Vultures’. The vultures defend their heartless reputation: ‘our senses are sharp. We’re first at the feast’; ‘So unendearing (with a taste for eye and anus).’ And the crows, ‘Like gangsters, ministers, we demand respect.’

‘The Walk of Snails’ guides us with humour through a collection of characters and their preferred snail killing methods. Mr Corby, ‘boils a kettle, gives them a damn good scalding’. While Ms Lovage

toes them into a heap, impales them on a rake,
stamps on any that still have the gall to twitch.

They find peace on the photographer Mr Green’s patch ‘for now’. There’s an overall sense, however, that they may have been better off staying in the safety of ‘Mr Horn’s dank potting shed, / where he keeps his pipe shag and his porn.’

For me it was ‘Sweetness’ that spotlighted the poet’s wit and complete mastery of form. It starts off feeling like a perfect villanelle with the refrains being

I go to bakeries every day
I do not know a better way

But underneath the humour, we can feel the poet’s frustration — her obsessive thinking about another: ‘my head’s a hive’; ‘will you ever arrive?’. In the final quatrain the rules are broken as the poet changes tense and modifies the form to make it completely her own:

Until I find a better way
I’ll go to bakeries every day.

Jane Thomas