Making Tracks, Katy Wareham Morris

V. Press, 2020        £6.50

Wordsworth stops by at Longbridge

Katy Wareham Morris writes about her father’s working life at the car plant and his eventual redundancy. She refers to his love of words and his gift to her of Wordsworth’s Collected Poems. My own father was a true bookworm and had the same positive influence on me.

What interests me is the ways in which the poet uses the language of nature to explore her father’s uprooting from his job.

‘Landscaping’ relates to the regeneration of the car factory in another form. Workers are ‘trees’. The tools are ‘secateurs’, work teams ‘branches’, the plant ‘the trunk’. ‘Prune’ suggests a redesign, but nothing remains except ‘dust, another grain of grit’.

In ‘Growing Pains’ the narrator, addressing her father, writes:

I feel you fell in love with the factory.

‘Binding’ cements this idea by exploring a book of Romantic poems. The lines burst with sensory language: ‘ripple’, ‘pool’, ‘wood’ ‘smoke’. ‘A salmon hue seeps / from the margins’.

Her father appears movingly in the last stanza:

Was that you too? I often think of you
squinting over words and rhyme
wandering through youth, through fields of flowers
as if you managed to escape.

Wakeham Morris roots her father to the ground in ‘I try to explain it again’. Imagined as a tree, he springs ‘new shoots, like flowery weeds’. He is ‘the root of all’. There are recurring ideas of him as both a tree rooted in the workplace and a weed to be made redundant.

‘Composed in my kitchen upon the thought of’ explores the balance between entrapping duty and the ‘Other’, ‘dancing over hills and vales / with the daffodils’. There’s a lyrical conversation between the absent father and the narrator: she tells us ‘Wordsworth’s corners speak to me’. The language of hills, dales and daffodils repeat themselves.

These are heartfelt pieces which speak of tension: the permanence of the natural, and the soul’s depth, versus the expediency of market values and the urban. Thought provoking and original.

Maggie Mackay