Up close photo of rain on branches with the lettering on top. One leaf hangingSomething so wild and new in this feeling, Sarah Doyle

V. Press, 2021    £6.50

Living air and blue sky

2021 marks the 250th anniversary of Dorothy Wordsworth’s birth. In Something so wild and new in this feeling, Sarah Doyle has mined the prose of Dorothy’s journals to create twenty two collage poems, skilfully re-presenting selected extracts from the journals in a wide range of forms.

Although no phrase is repeated in any poem more often than it appears in the source text, certain words recur — ‘birds’, ‘rain’, ‘cloud’, ‘sky’, ‘snow’, ‘light’, ‘shadow’, ‘sun’, ‘moon’, ‘wild’. I have an image of Dorothy gazing up in wonderment, for hours on end, at the shifting Cumbrian skies. Here’s the opening to ‘More like sky than clouds’, a poem of fifteen couplets, in which ‘cloud’ (or ‘clouds’ / ‘clouded’) appears no fewer than thirty three times:

The sky spread over with one continuous cloud,
streaked by deeper grey clouds.

Passing clouds travelled with their shadows below:
dark shadows under rainy clouds.

The final poem, ‘Light and Shadows’, describes the elation a skyscape can bring:

glittered in the sunshine, distant hills were visible,
the evening sun was now sending a glorious light.
Islanded with sunshine, bathed in golden light
my heart danced while the sun was yet shining.

It reminded me of a passage from William Wordsworth — from ‘Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey’ — which I first met aged sixteen, and which remains among my favourite in all of poetry:

                                         And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man

During the latest lockdown, I have been taking a photograph of the sky with my phone each day to send to family members far away. So, reading Sarah Doyle’s lovely collages, and remembering ‘Tintern Abbey’ again, is particularly timely. And with the absence of vapour trails right now, I can imagine I’m in fellowship with Dorothy and William Wordsworth and with every poet who’s ever looked at up the sky!

Annie Fisher