Modwena Pamphlets, 2006 - £5.00
The first pleasures of Anna Davis’s pamphlet are tactile and visual. It is printed on creamy paper, and illustrated with her own richly painted watercolours, which put the poems into their Hebridean context.
The poems are sensual experiences, too, though often rough and bracing ones. We taste the “salty air”, and the “scouring” wind as a fierce presence in many of the poems. We are made to feel its “constant incision”.
This is a tough world with tough inhabitants—seagulls are “sinew and feathers spat onto the/ grass” who tear at bread “screaming painful cries”. It is an unchanging world, where fishermen have “their fathers’ eyes” and “the wave’s slap, slap slap” will go on forever.
The descriptions are where Anna Davies is strongest, and they are much more certain than her occasional attempts to finish a poem with a shift away from the actual. In ‘At the Bridge’ she describes an old goat memorably:
He moves slowly, eyes slatted,
black fur, spiked.
The accompanying painting shows him as a most appealing and complex character. I wish, though, that she had resisted the temptation to finish the poem by turning him into something more fanciful or mythological.
Do we need a rhyme,
or a silver penny to pass him?
At her best Anna Davies lets the actual do the work, defining a rugged locality which to humans can be harsh and alien: (“Feet tracing over razored rocks,/ grazed by hermetic bodies,/ delicate hermaphrodites sealed in calcium”) but which can offer “Sea Manna”:
We look for sea refuse, sea gifts.
Carrageen, dulse, grass-wrack
are our knotted definitions.
You could call these poems “sea gifts” too. They remind us of both the bleakness and the joys of a storm-battered world, where a small flower can seem a miracle.
Pamphlet available from the author at 2 Whittinghame Mains Road, Whittinghame, East Lothian, EH41 4QA
The Common Reader says of Wind Tied Door: My favourite poem from this collection was ‘Wish’
make a circle with pebbles
a spiral of seaweed
on mounds of sand
a clock with feather hands
that will blow away
so we won’t know when to go
It’s such a childlike and beautiful idea to make such a clock in order to stay longer at the beach. When I’m next beside the sea I’ll remember this ●