‘Nothing is ugly in the garden, not even the dead’, says the narrator in Summering. ‘I am passive – a spectator to the blooming … the pear tree with its curled leaves is somehow exotic despite the rot that set in during the wet spring.’ These lines, I feel, are the keynote of Beyond Wings, revealing a spirituality and sense of wonder, an attentiveness to the heart of things. There are links and connections in this poet’s world – ‘gaps, cracks, openings’ in a stone bridge are ‘naming the times … speaking our lives.’ (Lifelines). The world and all things in it are important; throughout the collection are images of earth itself – roots and loam, the soles of feet, the ‘spongy fodder’ where life exists. (In the light). These are poems that invite us to share and to celebrate. Where some may see only ‘a tiny bird in a dull tree’, we are offered colours like jewels, bright feathers of kingfisher and peacock. (Kingfisher – upriver from Pulteney Bridge).
Alison Lock’s book appeals to me for a great many reasons. I love the language of it including titles such as Delayed Murmuration: No Mexican Wave, Early Morning, Isle of Gigha, the lyrical sound of The Eucalyptus of Canterbury. I am also strongly drawn to the elements of folk-lore, legend and myth. One of my favourite poems here is Pegasus where, on a day ‘made of white and grey/a monochrome without the black’, the narrator whispers the name of the ‘horse with wing and horn’, knowing that in olden days she would have been condemned as a witch. There are hints of witchcraft and magic as well in After Matins where an abbess plucks a ‘mandrake’s silent scream’ from the earth and gathers sage, rosemary and rue for the fever sick.
Most of all I love the atmosphere of mysticism in many of these poems – the sense of something ‘beyond wings’, a reverence for silence and stillness and a precious secrecy that is ‘close at heart’.
There is much for the reader to discover in this collection. Alison Lock has a sure grasp of poetic forms and techniques and there is a richness of detail, stunning in its simplicity, and a love of language in all its wealth and subtleties. Read Delayed Murmuration: No Mexican Wave and you’ll see what I mean. Beyond Wings is beautiful collection from a very fine poet.