Author: Alison Lock
Publisher: Calder Valley Poetry
Reviewer: Mandy Pannett
‘With words, I state my being in the world’. This declaration by the narrator/survivor seems, to me, to sum up her resolve, her vision, her whole reason for existing after a terrible, nearly fatal accident which left her, broken in spine but not in spirit, ‘in a cramping brace’, flat on her back for months like ‘a translucent bookmark’. This, a time for recovery and for contemplation, offers a chance to heal the ‘rupture’, the ‘displacement’. The accident, of which she has no memory, is ‘a gap that must be filled’.
An account of an accident then, and its aftermath, a description of gradual recovery. But this is no factual narrative detailing events and progress. Alison Lock is a skilful writer and knows how to bring the reader with her on every stage of the journey. With her we view the happenings – the accident, the rescue, the hospital environment, the returning home, the re-visiting in a new season. The poems are divided into careful sections, the language is simple, clear, lyrical where appropriate, sensory and full of imagery of the natural world. There are descriptions of pain and the slow mending of ‘particles of bone’ which join ‘white and white’ but there are also bluebells and harebells and a summer evening with ‘the evening primrose, white musk yellow’. Lure is rich in its variety of tones and moods and the reader is there throughout the experience.
An aspect of the writing that I find particularly beguiling is the focus on the immediate and near, a view from the level of earth. When the badly injured narrator is trying to crawl to safety she says ‘I have never been so close to ground: its elements of metal, earth, stone, trash, shit.’ A dead shrew is flattened on the path and she observes, is aware of observing, ‘every hair on its back.’ These moments of closeness, when she is struggling to live, when she realises that the ‘gift of life’ is still hers to cherish, seem to be the beginning of transcendence.
I mentioned the visionary, mystical aspect and it is a key element in Lure. The author believes she was meant to be saved, that St Brighid ‘held me/in that moment when I fell.’ At the moment when she was almost lost – ‘an oak twig/made brittle’ – some invisible watcher ‘pulled me from the deep.’
These are radiant poems, inspirational and full of grace. I’ll end with the author’s own words, the first words she managed to write in hospital, scribbled in pencil on a scrap of paper:
of being in
but as a part
of all things.
The Daedalus Files by Mandy Pannett