A Winter’s Day at Westonbirt & Other Poems, C.J. Driver

Artwrite, 2020   £5.00

The search

The colour images of trees by C. J. Driver in this pamphlet, are beautiful; they really are. There’s a calm and inspiring truthfulness about them that also pervades the poems. For example, ‘In a French Garden’

The sparrow hawk that rules this tract of land
Between the barn and the walnut trees
Has found a vantage place.
From there, it tells the truth about its world:
Death is absolute.

And the unnamed woman in ‘Late Lesson’ who ‘likes the edge of gardens best / where wilderness comes sidling in / like pupils late to class’ is honest enough to admit she no longer makes the judgements she used to make. I don’t like to presume but I have a sneaking suspicion she speaks for many of us as:

‘I learned too late to let things be,’
She sighs to fields that flow away.

As I turn the pages of this collection my attention oscillates between the poems and the images … this poem … that image … this poem…. My eyes and ears call out to each other … look here … listen to this … see, really see … hear, really hear ….

And as I pause in ‘A Formal Garden’, I both see and hear that

[…] it is not eighteenth century at all,
But almost new. Prospectus is a lie.
And summerhouse a fake. Untruth is rife.

There’s no doubt, however, about the searingly beautiful truth of ‘Song of the sparrows’, which ends:

I turn to you, as always, love,
who feeds the birds and knows each name;
we’re both aware what waits for us
but tend the garden, just the same.

While I hesitate to make assumptions, I suspect tending something we care about, in the company of someone we care about, is something most of us are searching for, whether we realise it or not. However painful, my heart soars when poetry reminds me of truths like that.

Sue Butler