owl unbound by zoe brooks

Owl Unbound contains many poems which depict rural life and are reminiscent of the country ways of my own childhood. However, Brooks’ images are so beautifully observed that her language makes the unfamiliar relatable and will resonate with readers from any background.

The collection opens with ‘Naunton Farm’, a concise and deeply moving poem. Whilst signing ‘executor’s deeds’, the poet discovers her mother’s words: “He died today.”

And the shock of it

makes my hand pause.

My hand reaches down

to the little cat

with no ears


You had hands big enough

to hold that cat

in your palm,

carrying her

away from the burning barn

Line by line overlaying layers of this shared history, the poet conveys love and character with such simplicity. Warmth radiates from Brooks’ depiction of her father’s large hands (and heart), as the rescuer of the injured kitten.

There are several poems in Owl Unbound which focus upon tilling the earth:  In ‘The Seedsavers’, Brooks’ imagery is astonishingly beautiful:

Later, when they depart,

she sees the birds rise

like wheat from the sower’s hand,

the rush of their wings overhead

is the sound of grain pouring from a sack.

These poems are rich with meaning brought about by an inherent understanding of the small things which marked each turn of season, each phase of life.

A treasure box in my memory was opened by ‘The Apples’:

The apples lie coffined in their boxes


Sometimes she comes and turn them over,

throwing away the bad.

The white foam of fungus […]

infects even my clothes with its sticky scent.

Brooks goes on describe the last few remaining by Christmas ‘like rows of shrunken heads; / their leathery and wrinkled skins […] peeled off in helter-skelter skeins’. Wow.  

And there’s more – owl pellets become ‘a galaxy of small bones and feathers / cocooned in fur’, the poet describes fishing for ‘sequinned trout’ and a stag beetle ‘in his Black Prince armour’.

This collection ignites a spark of recognition which makes each work feel deeply personal, the unfamiliar seem recognisable. These poems enable the reader to reach through time to touch people, places and moments depicted with heart and tenderness.

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