To Feed My Woodland Bones [A Changeling’s Tale], Kate Garrett

Animal Heart Press, 2019     $13.00

Otherness crosses into the mortal world

Kate Garrett is a magician. She plays with lines, spaces and stanza shape to foster in her reader the sense of otherness, the power of the dark, the vulnerability of being mortal.

I’m intoxicated by the bees and valerian in ‘An elf in the witch-garden’ and, in ‘That merry wanderer of the night’, by ‘the chill-smoke perfume of ghosts’ where midnight cradles me and ‘I could swirl and spin and hold the stars’.

‘In this mortal coil’ the narrator faces up to her humanity, her solid shape, its finite state. Grief and superstition permeate the poems. The veil between that mortal life and the strangeness of the spirit world with which she identifies is explored.

The poet tackles a difficult childhood, pulling her demons towards the light. In ‘An elf turns inside out for the dragon’ she contemplates her ‘disordered eating’, before moving towards human love. She convinces me that all things do pass and there is a season for joy and life on ‘a carpet filled of daisies’.

In ‘A halfling emerges’ the narrator’s first child arrives, a marvellous event: ‘his skin warms from blue to pink like a sunset’.

Then, in ‘An elf in awe of her human lover’ this newfound love allows ‘our years [to] dissolve like honey in the rain’. Following on, in ‘Pixie-led’ the narrator transforms into

a sliver of aurora, a being
in a beam who fell through the atmosphere, made solid on contact

Her mortal lover rises in the mist ‘around a crescent moon’ and she ‘tells him yes’.

Think Vicki Feaver’s ‘Marigolds’, W.H Auden’s ‘One Evening’. Or as an antidote to Stevie Smith’s ‘The Frog Prince’. Garrett’s imagery casts its own spell – the wonder of a woodland elf who survives beyond adversity to build an earthly life with husband, children and friends.

Maggie Mackay