Friday, 6 January 2017

"Falling Awake" by Alice Oswald - Poetry Book of The Year

It was a bit vague, wasn't it? A bit devoid of any real comment? I am of course talking about my blog where I boldly state that Alice Oswald's book, "Falling Awake," was "Something For The Weekend, Sir's?" poetry book of the year. It had no substance to it, no opinion, no constructive, positive statement telling why I thought it was such a good book. 

Funny thing is that I have never posted year after year a 'Poetry Book of The Year' here or anywhere else. Not just because it all seems a bit pretentious of me, hardly an expert on poetry, daring not only to voice an opinion of said subject but then having the sheer audacity to select a years best. I did one in 2012 with Barry Hill followed two years later with Janet Sutherland. So in many respects, this is the follow on to the "Bone Monkey."  And what a follow on.

Still, my previous post remains bereft of a why and a therefore as to my selection so, let's put matters right, let me tell you, belatedly, why I enjoyed it so.

Truth to tell I have only two of Alice Oswald's books. The first being the award-winning "Dart," and of course "Falling Awake." 

With "Dart" I felt the whole poem rolled and thundered, splashed and foamed, with the voice of the river itself. Even the little asides, those brief annotations that slip into the verse like herring gulls on a weed covered timber pole screeching their Keow ha-ha-ha-ha, which added colour and texture to the rise and rhythm of the words as they flowed, with liquid ease, through the forty-eight-page poem. Like a gospel choir in response to a lyric sung.

The whole poem had/has a natural feel to it almost as though Oswald had transmogrified herself into on of those screaming gulls and through their eyes, through their very connectivity to nature itself, transcribed their feelings as they scooped and dived over the Dart as it ran its course.

Feral? No, I don't think feral is correct. It was, it still is, something other than that. For me now, the man searching to redefine spirituality without either bowing to magic or mysticism, "Dart" is sort of Tao.  Of course, it needn't be a gull. It could just as easily be a swallow or a dragonfly or a crow. Well, maybe not a crow, as that would be too close to Ted Hughes for comfort but you know what I mean - a bird's eye view of the River Dart as witnessed by one of mother nature's denizens.

It seemed as if Alice had her finger's and her toes deep rooted in the riverbank the better to enable her to allow the truth of what she saw to transfer its earthy, damp, wet, silt-sodden story to be written.

Of course, Alice didn't write her poem in the manner I received it. She wrote it as an old man walking, observing, crossing the land, following the line of the river. An old man with tired legs, tried and tested footfalls, a man as common with the common land as the lines on his hands and face. She wrote it as a bailiff, a man with letters after his name,  An exchange in far off places. She captures, heart, body and soul the river but not just the water flowing, the very life of the Dart with all that goes in it, on it, about it and around it. She gives us, does Alice the daily life of the river Dart in all its glory. 

But that was "Dart" and "Dart" has had many an accolade, many an award, all deserved for Alice Oswald is profoundly talented but this should be about "Falling Awake" rather than me falling into the dream of Alice's making, the reality that flit's in my mind like a dream as it re-runs its images over and over and over again. Now, I'm "Falling Awake."

So then, here we have it, the follow-up to the highly acclaimed "Memorial." Having never read that collection I cannot comment. I don't whether there are similarities between that and this or if "Memorial" stands alone in the Oswald cannon. I suspect not. It is certainly different to "Dart" as that was one long, continuous poem whereas with "Falling Awake" we have a collection of poems. That said, the two books do share the same focus, that of nature.

Alice Oswald may very well be our finest poet, there is strong evidence to support that claim and none more so than here. With her ability to create a free-flowing rhythm, her talent with words, her forensic attention to take the detail of those things she has observed and write them down so that the images she has witnessed come alive with an electricity that is quite incredible. And she does it all with such nimble agility, such poise.

Her thread is those things about her. Possibly the Devon she calls home yet this apparent love of the region she lives in has a universal appeal so that literally anyone, anywhere in the world cab appreciate the poems.

My personal favourite is "Swan" but there are many others that could occupy that space for this is a luscious, rich assembly of poems. This really is a remarkable book in every sense, a book you will return to time and again.

All poems are copyright of the poet. Permission for this poet to post his/her work here has been granted by blog owner. All rights remain with the individual poet and their respective publisher.

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