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,
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.