Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Littoral Press, 2006 - £5.00

 

MUCH OF THIS COLLECTION, winner of the 2006 Littoral Magazine Poetry Pamphlet Competition, carries a definite pastoral flavour, sometimes refracted through the lens of art. There’s some use of rhyme, most notably for ‘In Memoriam’, but generally Ackroyd sticks to free verse. One complaint would be the occasionally erratic use of punctuation, but generally it’s well controlled.

    The second poem’s opening line—“There is a gap in the hedge” –immediately calls to mind R S Thomas, albeit without the cantankerous edge that the great Welsh poet cultivated. Perhaps that’s not surprising, given that Ackroyd was born in Cardiff and now lives in Shropshire, and she is generally at her best when dealing with clear-eyed glimpses of the natural world, occasionally with spiritual or even overtly religious overtones.

    She also acknowledges, with lines such as “My thought, outside the orbit of your art”, the difficulties for any art form in articulating the essentially abstract. A few pages further on, in a poem actually called ‘R S Thomas’, she defines this aesthetic well: “words”, she says, “have been earth, stones, bread”.

    She’s far less engaging when she lapses into the overly ‘poetic’, such as in ‘Rising To The Occasion’, where the phrase “The sky invites/ excavation of its radiance” lets sentimentality creep in; or when she decides to ‘tell’ rather than ‘show’. ‘Committal’ is probably the worst offender on that count, with the last stanza’s epiphany feeling particularly contrived. Ackroyd’s poems work best when, in her own words, she leaves her writing “open to the wind’s sting” and bears in mind the lines that give the collection its title (“Affinity is deepest in memory/ Poetry what sticks like lichen”) and lets sharply observed detail and precise language do all the hard work.

Matt Merritt

Pamphlet available from author at 21 Lucifelde Rd, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY3 7LB