Akros Publications, 2005 - £2.95
This slender pamphlet supports the idea that less is more: only 20 pages, containing 16 poems (and some of those very short) but Smith conveys the essence of what is celebrated in the Christian festivals of Christmas and Easter. These are not the consumer-fests with all the glitter and tinsel, and I doubt if this collection would appeal to non-Christians; they would be unlikely to pick it up, and so will miss Smith’s spare, pared-back poems whose echoes of Biblical phrasing speak to those who already know the gospels.
‘Mary’s Song’, the opening poem, draws on the Magnificat, where “God is the word/ in Mary’s mouth.” It is a poem of statements—of certainties expressed in simple language—setting the tone for the whole pamphlet. Smith stands back modestly, and consistently lets his subject be the centre of attention: these are un-showy poems, not aiming to dazzle with technical brilliance, but to let the reader see and understand the subject. Never using ‘I’, Smith is completely self-effacing.
The title of the collection comes from two lines in “The Day He Comes”, the poem that marks the transition from Christ-child to grown man, and the beginning of ministry. It evokes natural forces to underline the growing spiritual power—the hot wind blowing through a field of ripening corn—and glances back to an earlier harvest deity, with the parable of the sower combining with the idea of harvest. The line that will stay with me comes from ‘In the Garden’, a poem for Easter Day:
the air pulsed, with glistening birdsound
I loved “birdsound” —so much louder than mere song.
The cover has a simply-printed detail from a French Book of Hours (early sixteenth-century) in which—surely unintentionally—Joseph appears far more interested in tickling the smiling ox under his chin, and ignores the kneeling shepherds. Donald Smith’s brief biography reveals his background as a playwright and story-teller: he knows how to use detail like this to stir the imagination.
D A Prince