Poetry Scotland, Windfall Series, Diehard, 2007 - £3.00 www.poetryscotland.co.uk
A wet-verged farm lane fills
the short light of the day.
This is a pamphlet packed with roads, narrow tracks, rain and the sea. There are journeys to look at the Angel of the North:
It was causing car crashes every day
While people slowed to stare, or photograph—
Police policing it, at their wits’ end.
And to Dornoch’s tiny cathedral to hear an oratorio. To Greta Bridge and Scotch Corner. A trip on the Kyle of Lochalsh railway line. And to pick ‘strong, dark, sweet blaeberries
that lie in lairs
as though they understand
the country’s dangerous
The blaeberries may be afraid but Sally Evans seems very at home in the wild, wet landscapes she describes. She takes time to notice the small details and her language captures the atmosphere of these often isolated places in a way that makes you want to visit—even if it’s going to be wet and cold.
Between the dark trees in autumn prime and the hedges full of sloes is a poem about who owns Sylvia Plath, “Faber, the Feminists, or Hughes, / or Otto Plath?”, two letters to Horace and two poems about the Mouseman, Robert Thompson, who carved a mouse on each piece of furniture he made. But these are just breaks in the travelling, we are soon on the road again.
After visiting a Druid shrine Sally Evans says she learned that to survive city life doesn’t need luck but strength. I’ve never met her, but from reading these quiet, resolute, rooted-in-the-landscape poems, I guess she has that in bucketfuls. Her voice is quiet and yet as one journey follows another I sense her fortitude, her oak-like endurance. She sounds as if she’d make a great travelling companion (and they are rare indeed).
“The Great North Road” is certainly a pamphlet I shall tuck in my rucksack next time I catch a train or head out on the hills.