Collecting Cobwebs, Gathering Brambles
by Elizabeth Leaper & Jack Williamson
Reviewed by Freya Pickard
This is a beautiful, eclectic collection of poetry.
The first half of the book contains Libby's poetry and the second half contains poems written by her uncle Jack Williamson. There is a wide variety of poetry within these pages ranging from blank verse to highly structured forms including a villanelle.
This is a book I will re-read again and again. Every time I dip into it there is something new to discover, even in my favourite poems that I have read many times now.
The themes are as varied as the styles employed by both writers but the overwhelming sense one receives is that these poets are rooted in the soil that bred them. There is a fertile quality about these poems that they appear to have drawn out of the land around them, using it to fuel their own creativity.
For me, rhythm and atmosphere are the important things when reading poetry. I do enjoying rhyming schemes but prefer to be surprised by rhymes, not to expect them. This collection provided me with great pleasure as there is nothing twee or predictable about any of the poetry.
For instance, the rhyming in Frost Art is all part of the sound and the vision: -
I used to greet with such delight,
after a cold and frosty night,
the fronds and ferns of filigree
that he had drawn exquisitely...
In contrast, On The Hill is written in blank verse but is as equally powerful in its rhythm and description:-
wind-angled, on the hill
the tree stands desolate...
Libby's mood fluctuates between playful (Indecision) and poking fun (Ladies Gym), observational (Winter Rain) and epic (Ondine and Immortal).
My favourite poems by Libby include Solstice and The Old Songs. Solstice is illustrated with a beautiful pencil drawing of Stonehenge and when I read the poem it summed up my thoughts and feelings on the one occasion I have visited that ancient place.
In their timeless circle
the ancient stones once more mark
the passing of the seasons.
All is well.
The Old Songs struck a chord with me because the poem reminded me of that song in The Two Towers that the Rohirrim sing, Where now the horse the rider...? This poem contains a similar yearning and longing for the past, for something irretrievably lost.
Who will sing of the salmon
that leaps in the clear waters?
Who will sing of the hawk on the wing?
Sorrowful and inspiring this is one celtic type poem I return to again and again.
I want to review every single poem in the book but space and time prevents me here. I want now to talk about Jack Williamson's poetry.
Jack's poetry is subtly different to Libby's but there are many similarities in themes. His poetry has a sterner feel, but that's not to say it's not enjoyable to read. It is! It's as if he is confiding his deepest, darkest thoughts sometimes in his poetry. His use of words indicates an older generation to that of mine, one that knew how to use language correctly.
My favourite poems by Jack are Birch Trees and Lindow Man.
In Birch Trees the rhythm carries you along, the words are crisp and clear, painting vivid pictures. I particularly liked "Frondle trails of leafy green" and "Are tingle-teased by a fresh spring, Early morning breeze". The second stanza is full of motion and destrution leaving the last stanza to restore the peaceful landscape, describing it as "Tall white masts lying at anchor, On a neap tide of evening sylphid mist." This is one that evokes a real scene in mind's eye whenever I read it.
Lindow Man is a lush riot of description. I just love the way Jack describes things without even necessarily naming them. For instance, "a half Dozen hummocks of contentment, thoughtfully Chewing the cud in dumb doe-eyed bliss". In this poem the reader is taken from the "hard flint-eyed road with its sureness of arrival" to a "soft wandering way" that weaves through hedges, meadows, herds of cows, past flowering hawthorn. All the way you see and smell what the poet experiences and he even takes you into his memories of "Family Sunday visits to Grandad's lamplit cottage" and at the end he recalls the "fairy tales and misty legends" and the dead man who lay hidden until he reappeared as "a cameo of his time."
I have only mentioned a handful of the inspirational poems in this beautiful collection. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading and wants to be inspired.
Don't forget that the Giveaway of Collecting Cobwebs, Gathering Brambles ends at midnight on 6th April 2012 British Summer Time. To be in with a chance of winning a copy for yourself, follow the instructions giveaway-ccgb