Pigdog Press, 2005 - £6.00 + £2.00 p&p
The back of this large, pine-green pamphlet says Tim Beech uses his “keen observation of mammal, bird and landscape… to frame questions about belief and probe his own intense spiritual journey.” On the opening pages is a photograph of what I assume is the solitary pine tree, accompanied by a quote from Dante: “We that are turned to trees were human once.” So I began reading the poems feeling well prepared for the owls, hares and blackthorn that appear.
But for me, Tim Beech is most powerful when people appear in his landscapes. In ‘Inheritance’, he speaks with poignancy about his father:
… forty years before his hands
Spun invisible cat’s cradles in the air
And whilst he could still remember
The beginning of the sentence
That he was halfway through.
I also liked the directness of those rare poems where an ‘I’ appears, as in ‘Bracken’s Kid’: “When the act of killing/ Begins to afford pleasure/ Then I fall into evil.” (It is a goat which is killed, not a child.) And ‘October’, where the owl’s talons, “fix my soul;/ This man who fears to walk the night alone.”
Form and rhythm are abundant, natural inhabitants of these poems; and so are wolves. Wolves appear everywhere. In “Seven Sermons of the Thrush”, simple language creates a menacing inevitability:
The pack has spread out workmanlike among the flock.
There is one chosen who cannot escape the knowledge
Of his elevation to the host.
But returning to the human, I like the wolves best when, in ‘Shaman’, they are not just slavering killers but a minority struggling with the modern world. They cannot understand when Shaman tells them:
The young want Levi’s and Coca-Cola,
Jobs and degrees in hotel management:
All he can offer is transhumance
And the awesomely beautiful scenery
So they drift away
To cities and shanty towns
To become poor.
The wolves cannot change, become ghosts. I felt for them.