Palores Publications 2008 £3.95

Strands is a 28 poem stapled pamphlet exploring the sea, the landscape of Cornwall and music. We start with a poem about a war-time orphan arriving in Penzance, and end with musicians stumbling into a sunrise. The collection explores seascape, fishermen, and entrancing musicians.

I learnt from the cover notes that Patrick Williamson was a volunteer at the International Musicians Seminar at Prussia Cove, a musical outpost on the Cornish Atlantic coast. This is reflected in poems that explore the relationships between man, the sea and music.  Some poems focus on the experience of listening to music—‘Isserlis’, for example, is about the impact of cellist Steven Isserlis on his audiences. Other poems seemed to draw musical breath from the ocean, as in “towed under/by the score” (‘Drift’).

There are fleetingly beautiful images (“night pools pit and pock all roads” in ‘Drift’) and in ‘The clumsy fisherman’:

From his great height he ought to
spear them but instead
holds each wrestler in a handshake
of friendship

All the same, I was worried that some poems were too elusive—rhythmic and poetic, but more like sense impressions than poems. The punctuation confused me at times, and I was a little annoyed by the use of ampersands &.

‘Strands’ is the centre-piece of the collection, a sequence of six poems with echoes of the sea and the past. There’s a tentative emotional presence here that doesn’t feel completely realized, a father perhaps, or man/men who used to inhabit this landscape: “His skeletal hand and imprint/ on the window.” These were my favourite moments in the book, the ones that looked back on traditions and the men living and working in the area.

Annie Clarkson